Cruise lines and their passengers spent $17.6 billion in the United States in 2006, and New York and Hawaii were among the fastest-growing embarkation points for cruise travelers, according to a study released yesterday.
Direct spending related to the cruise industry increased 9 percent in 2006 — down slightly from 10 percent growth the previous year because of a slower rate of capacity and a drop in consumer spending, according to a report from the Cruise Lines International Association.
The report showed that 12 million passengers took cruise vacations worldwide in 2006, with U.S. passengers making up 78 percent of those travelers. Seven ships were added last year, and about 30 more are slated to be built by the end of 2011 as cruise lines anticipate there will be enough demand to fill about 80,000 new berths.
Over the past few years, the cruise industry has had to answer questions about safety aboard ships stemming from several incidents, including passengers’ bouts with stomach illness, a ship fire and traveler disappearances. It must also deal with the yearly hurricane season and higher fuel costs.
Demand has slowed in the key Caribbean market, but the industry has seen potential for growth in the European and Asian markets. Cruise association President Terry Dale noted that industry surveys show only about 17 percent of Americans have taken a cruise, meaning there should be enough demand to meet the increased supply of berths.
“As an industry, we’ve barely scratched the surface,” Mr. Dale said. “There’s such potential for us to continue to grow.”
Florida — home base for Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. — led with nearly 56 percent of all embarkations and the top three cruise ports in 2006. The Port of Miami, Port Canaveral and Port Everglades accounted for more than 4.4 million passenger embarkations, the study showed.
The Port of Galveston in Texas ranked fourth with 617,000 embarkations, an increase of 16 percent from the previous year.
New York ranked sixth with 536,000 embarkations in 2006, up 45 percent, with the opening of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.
The port in Honolulu also showed substantial growth, with passenger departures reaching 318,000, a jump of 34 percent.
“We’ve literally brought cruising to the backyards of millions of Americans,” Mr. Dale said. “It makes it much more accessible for folks, and as a result, you don’t have additional costs to fly. … It just makes the experience that much more affordable.”
The success in New York and Hawaii were in contrast to a nearly 77 percent drop in passenger embarkations in New Orleans, whose port was hit hard by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. About 72,000 cruise passengers began their trip in New Orleans in 2006, down from 308,000 the previous year, the report showed.
Other ports that saw a drop in embarkations were Boston, down 22 percent with 62,000, and San Diego, down 23 percent with 180,000.
The study was done by Exton, Pa.-based Business Research and Economic Advisors, which gathered and analyzed data for the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based cruise association.