New cruise industry consolidations a possibility


There are signs that the recession is taking its toll on cruise operators, and in fact bookings are looking bleak enough to have some industry analysts on Wall Street speculating about failures in the coming year, and the likelihood of further consolidations.

On Thursday, executives at the cruise industry giant Carnival spoke on a conference call with analysts, and addressed questions about whether the company – seen as the strongest player in the industry – is planning to buy up some of the weaker operators.

According to Carnival’s chairman and CEO, Micky Arison, the company isn’t ruling out the possibility.

“Obviously from an antitrust point of view there’s not a whole lot that we can do,” Arison said to analysts on the call, during a discussion of Carnival’s fourth quarter earnings. “But like post-Sept. 11, sometimes opportunities avail themselves that you’re not expecting, and we’ll be diligent about that as time progresses.”

In the last 20 years, Carnival has acquired many of the major operators in the industry, including Cunard, Holland America and Princess, and now controls approximately 50 percent of the cruise ship tonnage in the world. This position will undoubtedly spark regulator concern if the giant attempts to add additional lines to its group.