Page last updated at 01:58 GMT, Friday, 22 April 2005 02:58 UK

New cruisers and liners in 'boom'

By Clare Babbidge
BBC News

The troubled cruise ship Aurora is poised to set sail from her home port of Southampton on Friday. The ship, which boasts 12 bars, a casino and three dance floors, is the product of a booming market.

After 10 weeks of repair work in Germany, P&O's £200m luxury liner starts work again with a mini-cruise from Southampton to Belgium.

Kelly Holmes on board the Arcadia
Kelly Holmes helped launch the 200m cruise ship Arcadia earlier this month

The cancellation of Aurora's 103-day world voyage due to propulsion problems cost £26m.

But it did little to dent the fortunes of its US parent company, Carnival Corporation, which has a stock market value of around $40bn (£21.1bn).

The huge corporation has its roots in Carnival Cruise Lines, which began in 1972 with the Mardi Gras, a former ocean liner.

Ecstasy or Inspiration?

Carnival Cruise Lines continued to expand with generally more ambitious ships, bearing names such as Ecstasy, Sensation and Inspiration.

Carnival Corporation now owns 12 different cruise line brands, including Cunard and P&O Cruises.

Last year Easyjet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou threw his hat into the market and hopes there will be a place for his "no frills" liner which sets sail next month.

The perception that it is just for older people is no longer the case
Carly Perkins
Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Cruise Lines spokeswoman Carly Perkins said the "cruising boom" is continuing and has led to more ships being built.

On-board facilities

Earlier this month Dame Kelly Holmes helped launch the £200m Arcadia, which will carry 2,000 passengers and can even host weddings at sea.

"We are attracting a lot more people from the UK. For instance, people who are holidaying in Florida, who may decide to go on a cruise for the second week of their trip," Ms Perkins said.

"We are getting, families and younger people, many taking a cruise for the first time. The perception that it is just for older people is no longer the case."

The 110,000 ton Liberty is still smaller than Carnival's £530m Queen Mary 2, the biggest, most expensive passenger liner in history.

Cruise ships offer just about everything
Brian Major

The 151,000 ton liner was berthed near the QE2 in Southampton at the weekend and a large crowd lined the seafront to see the two monarchs of the seas.

Brian Major, of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), said: "Our passenger numbers have grown about 8% annually since 1980.

"Cruises have a high satisfaction rate. Cruise ships offer just about everything."

He added 68 ships had been built between 2000 and 2004 and another three this year.

The Queen Mary 2, right, and former flagship, the QE2
Crowds gathered to see two Queens of the Seas together

Mr Major said facilities such as e-mail and spas had helped the industry move with the times.

Industry-watchers have been taking notes of Mr Haji-Ioannou's recent entry into the market.

The "no-frills" concept promises to turn facilities-friendly cruising on its head.

There will bars, cafes and beds but no casinos or dancing girls.

Low prices

But Mr Haji-Ioannou said the main aim was for low prices and to emphasise the ports rather than the on-board experience. It is also aimed at younger people who, he says, are not traditionally attracted to cruises.

He told the BBC News website: "The main difference will be that the ship will be in port at night.

"That is what young people will enjoy. The entertainment, bars and restaurants on shore are much more varied and authentic than anything you'd get on board."

He said bookings for easyCruiseOne have been "encouraging". He added the average age of those booking was 37.

Picture of easyCruiseOne, courtesy of easyCruise
I am creating a new market
Stelios Haji-Ioannou

Mr Haji-Ioannou, 38, said he came up with the idea while "bored" during a conference on a cruise ship.

He said: "I personally would never have considered it before. I thought cruises were restrictive and something for older people".

He said there were many reasons why joining the cruise industry made financial sense. "You can't argue with 20% profit margins," he said.

The serial entrepreneur believes there will be a market for those who want to hop off and enjoy ports in the French and Italian Riviera.

He said: "I am creating a new market. I do not expect one size to fit all. I am not suggesting we will take passengers away from the QE2."

Queens of the seas home together
16 Apr 05 |  Hampshire
Newest liner named by Dame Kelly
12 Apr 05 |  Hampshire
Easyjet founder lands cruise ship
16 Apr 04 |  Business
Market unfazed by Aurora setback
21 Jan 05 |  Business

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