Every year at this time, suppliers, cruise executives and press meet in Miami at a conference that used to be called Seatrade and now is called Cruise Shipping Miami. Many of the destinations set up booths, so you can check out stunning images of less-visited countries like Oman and Colombia.
For most conferencegoers, networking is the prime mission. Cruise lines wine-and-dine press (at the Miami Herald, we pay for our dinner, thanks) ... and then the execs complain about the press from the podium. Some of the complaints are completely valid, but the press the execs complain about most typically are TV talking heads screaming about doom-and-gloom -- not the press who cover this event. Strikes an odd note.
The headliner event is something called the State of the Industry panel, which has become increasingly dull ever since SEC rules came into play preventing execs of publicly held companies from saying anything publicly that they haven't already disclosed to financial analysts. This is a good thing for investors, but for conferencegoers, it makes for a morning that demands large cups of coffee.
Understandably, the economy was Topic One. And though the economy isn't as cheery as anyone would like, most cruise lines allowed that cruising remains popular because it presents a great vacation value. While I'm not sure that's been true in all years, I'm convinced that's the case in 2009. Where else can you get high-quality food, lodging, service and transportation to foreign locales, often for less than $100 per person per day?
Plus, the industry is unveiling 14 new ships this year, including the largest ever from any line (Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas) and the largest ever from Carnival (Carnival Dream). Both are due out this fall. Which gives us all plenty to yammer about besides the economy.