Cruise industry showing signs of rebound in US


The US cruise ship industry is showing signs of rebounding after the September 11 attacks, but customers are staying closer to home, a trade association official has said.

"We have no problem filling up the ships,'' Michael Crye, president of the International Council of Cruise Lines (ICCL), said in a speech to transportation industry groups.

The cruise business was hit hard by the hijack attacks, but bookings have rebounded from 50 per cent in the weeks after September 11 to the 85 per cent to 90 per cent range now, Crye said.

But like the airline industry, the domestic cruise industry is adapting to changing travel habits prompted by US economic woes and the hijack attacks.

For instance, Crye said more people are driving to meet ships for short cruises within the US rather than flying to a port for a longer, more exotic international trip.

With many cruise lines focusing on the North American market, customers can find more cruises available at discounted rates.

In a move to reinstate customer confidence in travel, cruise lines are operating at the highest level of security set by the federal government.

At US terminals, passengers undergo screenings similar to security checks at airports, Crye said. Passenger lists are also shared with American immigration and customs officials.

Cruise line security also features a high tech passenger identification system. Passengers are given a card with basic personal information about them, which is fed into a computer each time they leave or board the ship. The computer matches that information with a picture that is seen only by vessel security personnel to ensure proper identity.

"The number one priority of the cruise industry is the safety of its passengers and crew,'' Crye said in an interview after the speech.

The ICCL, based in Arlington, Virginia, is a nonprofit trade association that represents the interest of 16 of the largest cruise lines operating in the US and over 73 cruise industry business partners and suppliers.