South Florida is always a hot spot for cruising, but for a single week each March Miami truly becomes the center of the cruise universe. That's because every cruise executive, vendor and journalist is scurrying from conference room to exhibition hall for the industry's annual Cruise Shipping Miami confab. Though it's an industry-only event, cruise fans watch for conference reports to find out about the latest details on new ships, ports and trends.
This is the 29th year of the conference, and organizers say they're expecting "a significant'' increase -- up 8 percent in attendees over its usual crowd of 11,000. The increase, they say, is because cruising increasingly is going global. (The Miami Herald's Hannah Sampson has more details on the industry's global push.)
Monday is always the slow day; the confab kicks into high gear with Tuesday's State of the Industry address featuring the heads of many major lines. But even Monday, two trends were underscored, giving cruisers some idea of what they can look for in the future:
° Snappier port facilities. In June, Hong Kong will open its long-awaited new cruise terminal, designed by star architect Sir Norman Foster. In the next few years passengers will also find sleek new terminals in Busan, South Korea, due in late 2014; and in Dubai, due at the end of this year. China also has new terminals under construction.
° More international itineraries. Charles Robertson, CEO of luxury small-ship American Cruise Line, said his line expects to announce an international itinerary in the next few months, possibly in Latin America, the Caribbean or the British Isles. Its current six ships -- a seventh is coming this year -- win kudos for airy cabins, attentive service and atypical itineraries in the northeast, Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, the Mississippi and the U.S. southeast. Its ships are built in the U.S. and run with all-American crew.
Other tidbits from Monday:
- Despite recent saber-rattling by North Korea, Asian cruising will continue to grow, said Lim Ki-Tack of the Busan, Korea, Port Authority.
Jane Wooldridge is T+L's cruise editor.