The new dynamics of tourism in the world Mediterranean cruise tourism.?

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Maritime circuit for the purpose of relaxation or pleasure on board a liner or a pleasure boat”, thus defined, the term “cruise” can apply both to private pleasure, to “tourist tours ” (excursions, dinner on the water, etc.) as well as circuits lasting several days with stopovers, aboard a ship of varying capacity (more than 24m) (Jacob, 2009). In the absence of precise data on the first two types, only the last will be discussed here.

From sailboat to mega-liner: cruise ships in the Mediterranean

In 2008, 159 ships criss-crossed Mediterranean waters, offering a total capacity of 166,742 beds, or an average capacity of 1,049 beds [3] . This average obviously hides differences in size, since the smallest fleets only offer about fifty seats, while the largest offer just over 3,500 (document below on the left). Some of the smaller ones correspond to sailboats and belong to independent companies organizing luxury cruises, such as the Compagnie du Ponant. The largest, the Costa Concordia , Costa Serena and Costa Pacificabeing, for their part, the property of Costa Cruises, attached to the first world group, Carnival (document below on the right). But the latter will be supplanted by the Norwegian Epic and its 4,100 seats, inaugurated in June 2010, by the Norwegian Cruises Line which intends it for circuits in the Mediterranean from May 2011. This information may seem anecdotal, but it is nevertheless revealing of the race for gigantism that the world’s largest companies have been engaged in since the beginning of the 1990s, which makes it possible to speak of mass tourism also for the cruise sector.

Characteristics of cruise ships operating in the Mediterranean

The objective of the current construction programs is to build mega-ships of 220,000 tons capable of embarking 6,000 people or more. In this frantic race, the company Royal Caribbean International leads the dance and commissioned in December 2009, the Oasis of the Seas , a ship which can accommodate 5,500 passengers and which seems to be the first of a long series [4 ] .

In the context of mass tourism applied to cruises, the idea of ​​a giant liner where the occupants would be packed like sardines can be defeated by calculating the ratio between the tonnage and the number of seats. The latter shows that the new sea monsters are much more comfortable than their predecessors (document above right) and for good reason: the cruise ship does not function as a simple means of transport provided with accommodation but it constitutes a self-contained residential center. The principle of the fun ship(offer of diversified activities on board, from golf to SPA via tennis or yoga) created by Carnival is that of a boat where contact with the outside may not appear to be essential throughout the duration of the trip , the boat becoming the destination of the stay. Thus, the cruise operates according to the all-inclusive ( all-inclusive ), with accommodation in the cabin, sometimes with loggia, meals and entertainment on board included in the package, the excursions offered being, for their part, optional and can be chosen up to ‘at the last moment.

Of course, this massification is not without raising criticism and companies, a certain number of which operate in the Mediterranean, offer an alternative offer on board “human-sized” units (less than 1000 beds). They favor more original destinations which, by their price, exclude from the outset competition with the largest operators and offer passengers better quality services with personalized on-board activities [5] .

Large American groups and independent European companies

While in 1990 there were 42 companies with 90 ships offering a total of 1,840 cruises [6] , 50 companies and more than 170 ships criss-cross the basin in 2010, thus offering more than 2,500 cruises [7] . The growth in the number of companies, however, gives the illusion of choice and diversity to potential cruise passengers, it hides the concentration at work in the sector. Indeed, if the companies that operate are mostly European, many of them belong to one of the two major American groups in the sector, Carnival (which, all subsidiaries combined, holds 50% of the total offer) or Royal Caribbean-Celebrity Cruises (owner of 35.6% of the total offer).

Powerful groups

The American group Carnival Corporation is the world’s number one cruise company. In 2010, it generated a turnover of 14.5 billion dollars. Bringing together Carnival Cruise Lines, Costa Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn, P&O Cruises, P&O Australia, Cunard Line, AIDA Cruises and Iberocruceros, the group has a fleet of 98 ships. Ten other liners are on order for staggered deliveries until 2014. Carrying 8.5 million passengers each year, it employs 70,000 sailors worldwide.

The Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCC), also American, is the world’s number 2 cruise company. In 2009, it achieved a turnover of 5.9 billion dollars. The group develops its activity under the brands Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Pullmantur Cruises, Azamara Cruises and CDF Croisières de France. At the end of 2009, the group had a fleet of 38 boats for a total capacity of 84,050 berths.

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