State of Cruise Industry

The 2020 COVID pandemic affected everyone in the world. It was especially hard on the global cruise ship industry, bringing a $100B+ industry to a complete stop for nearly two years. 

At the time of writing this post in October, 2021, the market is beginning to rebound and cruises are sailing to select ports once again.

The global cruise ship market has grown in the past, and will continue to grow at a rate in excess of population growth, providing retailers and entrepreneurs an opportunity to see above-average returns. With over $50 billion in capital currently being invested by Carnival Corp, Royal Caribbean and others, the $126billion cruise ship industry is resilient and is poised for growth in our post-pandemic world. 

Successful market penetration is a challenge, as the top 20 cruise ship ports in the world are found in 12 different countries. High passenger and crew spending (above typical retail) will continue to attract retailers in the decades ahead. 

Because of the pandemic, there are more premier retail locations available now than there have been in 50 years.

Cozumel Mexico, with a local population of only 100,000 people, continues to thrive as the world’s top cruising destination, boasting nearly 3.5 million passenger visits in 2019. 

State of the Cruise Industry

In 2019 before COVID, we saw another record of 25.8 million global ocean cruise passengers—a 4.5 percent continued growth rate over the previous year of 24.7 million. Coupled with an annual occupancy percentage again exceeding 100 percent, this passenger growth shows sustained consumer interest in cruising and an industry where demand continues to outpace supply. In fact, demand for cruising has increased 20.5 percent in the five years preceding COVID.

To support this demand, FCCA and CLIA member cruise lines added nearly 22,000 berths through six new ocean-going vessels, while continuing to grow demand through innovative, exciting features and a more personalized guest experience complete with wearable, customizable onboard technologies, as well as media initiatives including even TV shows and movies to display what cruising offers.

The industry also continues to grow by becoming more global in both itineraries and passenger sourcing, but the Caribbean again headlined the industry’s success. It accounted for more than a third (35.4 percent) of the global deployment capacity market share. Plus, the region’s yields and ticket pricing continue to increase, aided by a strong U.S. economy and consumer sentiment.

State of Cruising

As the market returns after disruptions caused by COVID-19, it is poised to reach new heights and break more records as it did after 9/11 and the 2008 global, financial market collapse. There are forecasted of 27.2 million sailing the oceans on FCCA and CLIA member cruise lines upon market return.

Driven by nine new oceangoing vessels with 32,000 berths and an investment of $7.4 billion launched in 2019, the record passengers will have the world as their gangway, with nearly 1,000 ports. They will also hail from around the world, with growth in source markets like China.

Today’s ships offer a world of innovations that build cruise lines’ brands—from sky-diving simulators, biking above the ocean and robotic bartenders, to celebrity chef kitchens, butler service and all-suite staterooms—and facilities that accommodate family members of all generations traveling together or even passengers cruising solo.

Cruise ships’ facilities and services continue to exceed the expectations of a growing population of travelers, and cruisers can easily find a cruise line, ship, stateroom and itinerary to suit them. Yet even more options will soon be available, as FCCA and CLIA member cruise lines have 50 vessels on order between 2018-2025, representing 220,000 lower berths and an investment value of more than $51 billion. And most of these vessels are large in both features and capacity, with the average newbuild on order tipping the scales at more than 155,000 GRT with more than 4,000 lower berths.

 Top Cruise Travel Trends In our Near Future

  1. All Budgets Will Cruise: While cruising does skew a bit more to the affluent consumer than other types of vacations, almost all levels of income enjoy cruise vacations.
  1. Transformational Cruise Travel: The next evolution of experiential travel sees travelers taking a step further and seeking “transformational” experiences, from cultural immersion and voluntourism to extreme adventures.
  1. Sustainability at Sea: In the coming years there with be an even greater focus on sustainable tourism, with travelers participating in practices from recycling to volontourism both on board and on land.
  1. Millennials Focus on River and Small Ships: River and small ship cruising continues to gain traction among travelers, specifically the Millennial set, with a focus on the ever-expanding itineraries and destination experiences that reach far beyond walking and coach tours and endless options for the perfect “Instagram moment.”
  1. Skip-Gen Cruising: Multigenerational cruising is projected to increase in popularity, and “skip-generation” trips, with grandparents and grandchildren traveling together without their parents, are predicted to be highly popular.
  1. Travelers Warm to Chilly Destinations: The coming year is projected to see an increase in popularity of colder climate destinations.
  1. Healthy Doses: Travelers are seeking health and wellness trips more than ever before, and the cruise industry is responding with services and experiences including onboard health wellness seminars led by popular health experts, custom fitness programs, stress management, spa services and even entire cruise itineraries dedicated to weight management and healthy living.
  1. Smart Travel Technology: The coming year there will be a rise in traveler-friendly onboard technologies. Several cruise lines are introducing wearable technology for cruising. 

Summary Cruise Industry Overview

  • A record 25.8 million+ passengers cruised globally in 2019.
  • $126 billion+ in total economic impact and 1 million jobs paying $41 billion in wages and salaries were generated by the global cruise industry in 2019.
  • Demand for cruising increased 20.5% in the five years before COVID.
  • The cruise industry is the fastest-growing category in the leisure travel market.
  • From a capacity standpoint, utilization is consistently over 100%.
  • The cruise ship order book through 2025 includes 50 new ocean-going vessels from FCCA/CLIA member cruise lines, representing 220,000 lower berths and an investment value of $51 billion.


Cruise Industry’s Economic Impact to Caribbean and Latin America

  • Cruise tourism contributed $3.16 billion+ of direct expenditures in the participating 35 destinations in 2019.
  • Cruise-related expenditures generated 75,050 jobs, which paid $976.5 million in wage income to residents.
  • 23.63 million passengers and 4.5 million crew disembarked cruise ships and visited the participating destinations during in 2019, spending $2.45 billion and $302.2 million, respectively.
  • Average expenditure per passenger across all destinations was $103.83, and average expenditure per crew member was $67.10.
  • The highest expenditure per passenger was $191.26 in St. Maarten, and the highest expenditure per crew member was $149.44 in Puerto Rico.
  • Cruise line expenditures—including port fees and taxes, payments to local tour operators and payments to local businesses for supplies and services—contributed $400.8 million
  • Cruise passengers spent an average of 4.38 hours ashore during their cruise call. 


  • People who cruise are loyal to cruising, with 92 percent of cruisers saying they will probably or definitively book a cruise as a next vacation, and 65 percent of cruisers rating cruises as the best type of vacation, over land-based vacations, all-inclusive resorts, tours, vacation house rentals or camping.
  • Cruises are a preferred vacation choice for families, especially those with children under 18, and children are involved with the decision process for cruises more than they are for land-based vacations.
  • Younger generations—including Millennials and Generation X—are embracing cruise travel. Two-thirds of Gen Y/Millennials say that cruising is their favorite vacation, and this preference is even more pronounced among Gen Xers, with 71 percent.
  • People who take cruises are younger and more diverse than non-cruisers, and different cruisers often have different priorities: o Baby Boomers are influenced more by trips, ports and destinations, along with itineraries and sight-seeing options. o Traditionalists are interested in programs for children and families. o Gen Y and Millennials are more concerned with cost, convenience and onboard entertainment.
  • A main benefit of cruises vs. land-based vacations is the opportunity to see and do new things.
  • The vast majority of cruisers see cruising as a good way to sample destinations for later trips. Millennials and Gen Xers, in particular, like this benefit to cruising and are more likely to have done pre-/post-cruise staysin a portcity and/or returned to a visited destination first experienced on a cruise.
  • Sixty-eight percent of cruisers identified the destination of their vacation as the most important factor influencing their vacation choice.
  • Even though they also take land-based vacations, the average cruiser has already taken more than five cruises as an adult.


Contact us to learn how you can expand your business into the cruise ship market. 





  • Source – Florida Caribbean Cruise Association