Friday, January 14, 2011

Cruise Lines Depart from Southern California for Other Home Ports Across the Globe

Carnival Cruise ShipGoing on a cruise is one of the best vacations anybody could possibly take. Having been on two cruises to the Caribbean myself, I can certainly say that the experience of being on the ship alone is worth it. However, getting on a cruise may be tougher than you think, especially in California where reports have been piling in of cruise lines pulling out of ports in Southern California due to economic problems and fears over traveling to Mexico.

Carnival Cruise Lines, as well as other operators, are pulling out the last of their ships from Southern California due to, like I said, economic woes and fears over traveling to Mexico. Yesterday, Carnival announced that its 2,500-passenger Carnival Spirit is moving to Australia by April 2012. This move will unfortunately cost the local economy around $54 million according to the Port of San Diego. The Carnival Spirit transports more than 60,000 passengers per year to destinations along the Mexican Riviera.

The Mariner of the Seas, the 3,100-passenger ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet, is leaving on its final voyage from the Port of Los Angeles on Sunday. After a tour in South America, the Mariner of the Seas will end up at Galveston, Texas, its new home port. In addition to that, Royal Caribbean's other large ship, the 2,348-passenger Norwegian Star, will also be leaving Los Angeles in May for its new home in Tampa, Florida. These two ships combined carried nearly 50% of the business of the Port of Los Angeles in 2009.

Both cruises I went on departed out of Florida and the cruise industry is seeing signs of recovery in Florida as well as other locations. However, persistent drug-related violence has caused fading interest in cruises to Mexico which was the primary destination of California-based ships. Authorities in Mexico recently found the bodies of 30 new victims, 15 of which had been beheaded, in Acapulco.

While the cruise industry managed to see a rebound in 2010, the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Diego together saw a decrease. According to Chris Chase, Marketing Director for the Port of Los Angeles, "We are struggling with our many ships to Mexico. It's the economy and the news of drug wars down there."

The number of ships that docked at the Embarcadero in San Diego was 255 in 2008. However, this is said to decrease to 103 this year. By 2013 the number of cruise ships in San Diego could fall to as low as only 76. The Elation, another one of Carnival's ships, was relocated from San Diego to Mobile, Alabama last spring.

According to Carnival Spokesman Vance Gulliksen, "Our decision to deploy the Carnival Spirit to Australia was based on the weaker relative financial performance of our San Diego program at present. Only about 1.5% of Australians have ever taken a cruise, meaning that there is a huge potential for growth." Holland America, a division of Carnival's parent company, is still going to offer cruise lines to Mexico, Hawaii, Panama Canal and South America from San Diego.

In the first six months of 2010, only 187 cruises docked in Mexican ports. Compare this to the 290 that docked in the same period in 2008 and you have quite a decrease. Port officials, as well as the travel industry, have tried to emphasize the minimal danger to tourists in Mexico by pointing out that most of the violence in Mexico takes place far from cruise destinations. However, that message has a hard time competing with images of decapitated bodies in the media.

In a statement from Terry Thornton, a Senior Vice President at Carnival, he stated that business in Mexico was being "negatively affected by the highly publicized incidents of violent crime." He went on to say that, "Fortunately, these incidents have really not been focused on tourists." Other people merely associate the loss of business as part of a constant cycle that comes with the oceanic travel industry and believe the slump will pass.

What about you? Do you think that this is just a common slump or do you believe the news is affecting travelers? Are you affected by the news? Or would you still be willing to take a cruise to Mexico? Let us know in the comment section below.

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Source: MSNBC

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