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Applied Geography 38 (2013) 31e42

Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect Applied Geography

journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/apgeog

The geography of cruises: Itineraries, not destinations Jean-Paul Rodrigue a,1, Theo Notteboom b, *

a Department of Global Studies & Geography, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY, United States

b Institute of Transport & Maritime Management Antwerp (ITMMA), University of Antwerp, Kipdorp 59, B-2000 Antwerp, Belgium

abstract

The cruise industry is a highly concentrated business in terms of players and markets. Vessel deployment strategies and itinerary design by cruise operators are primordial and are affected by market and operational considerations. This paper focuses on capacity deployment and itineraries in two major cruise markets: the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. We argue that the cruise industry sells itineraries, not destinations, implying a level of flexibility in the selection of ports of call, but still bound to important operational considerations. The paper also reveals that the two cruise markets are not functioning independently but are interconnected in an operational manner, particularly through the repositioning of vessel units to cope with variations in seasonal demand among the regional markets.

Keywords:

Cruise tourism Cruise ports

Vessel deployment Caribbean Mediterranean

Introduction

The modern cruise industry emerged in the late 1960s and soon developed into a mass market using large vessels and adding more revenue-generating passenger services onboard. It has become a salient symbol of the globalization of the tourism industry in terms of its market coverage, its practices (e.g. customer service) and the mobility of its assets (e.g. Chin, 2008; Weaver, 2005a; Wood, 2000). Still, the geography of cruises remains an under- researched academic field in maritime and tourism studies. In the past few decades, the industry has attracted a few researchers from various fields investigating the complexity of its operational and commercial dynamics. Dowling (2006) probably offers the most comprehensive overview of academic work related to the cruise industry: the edited volume covers nearly forty contributions dealing with topics such as the geography and seasonality of the world cruise market (Charlier & McCalla, 2006), the industrial organization of cruises (Papatheodorou, 2006), the demand for cruise tourism (see e.g. Petrick & Li, 2006), the supply of cruises in specific regions (see e.g. Wilkinson, 2006; Wood, 2000 on the Caribbean) and other economic, social and environmental dimen- sions of the cruise market.

Dwyer and Forsyth (1996, 1998) and Dwyer, Douglas, and Livaic (2004) analyzed the economic significance of cruise tourism and cruise ship calls, while Doublas and Douglas (2004) unraveled cruise

! 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

ship passenger spending patterns. Key operational research topics include the optimal routing of cruise ships (see e.g. Hersh & Ladany, 1989), the cruise ship port selection process (Marti, 1990) and the optimal cruise-liner passenger cabin pricing policy (Ladany & Arbel, 1991). The service offerings and locational qualities of cruise ports have also received attention in the literature. For example, McCalla (1998) examined the specific site and situation requirements of cruise ports, while Vaggelas and Pallis (2010) identified and classi- fied the different services provided by 20 European passenger ports. Gui and Russo (2011) introduced an analytic framework that connects the global structure of cruise value chains to the regional articulation of land-based cruise services.

Building further upon the existing literature, this paper focuses on capacity deployment and itineraries in two major cruise markets: the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. We argue that the cruise industry sells itineraries, not destinations, implying a level of flexibility in the selection of ports of call, but still bound to important operational considerations such as sailing vs. port time. If this holds true, then a geographical perspective of the cruise network structure is particularly revealing of its operational char- acteristics. In spite of assertions that the floating assets of the cruise industry have a wide array of options (e.g. Patullo, 1996; Woods, 2004), operational and commercial considerations impose the careful design of itineraries that are offered to customers. The paper also underlines that the two cruise markets are not functioning independently but are interconnected in an operational manner, particularly through the repositioning of vessel units to cope with variations in seasonal demand. Next to analyzing itineraries and capacity deployment strategies, the paper proposes a classification of cruise ports based on the role they serve within their regions.

* Corresponding author. Tel.: þ32 3 2655151.

E-mail addresses: jean-paul.rodrigue@hofstra.edu

theo.notteboom@ua.ac.be (T. Notteboom). 1 Tel.: þ516 463 5765.

(J.-P. Rodrigue),

0143-6228/$ e see front matter ! 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeog.2012.11.011

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