Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Three Cruise Lines Scale Back California to Mexico Service

Three cruise ship lines operating Southern California to Mexico excursions plan to end at least some of their service as a slumping tourist economy and drug-related violence in Mexico is driving customers to other destinations.

Royal Caribbean Cruises' high-end liner Mariner of the Seas departed Sunday for its last Mexico cruise from the Port of Los Angeles. Following the cruise, the ship will be moved to a new home in Galveston, Texas where it will offer western Caribbean excursions.

Norwegian Cruise Lines has also announced that in May it will discontinue Mexican Riviera service with its Los Angeles-based vessel Norwegian Star. The vessel will then be rebased in Tampa, Florida.

To the south of Los Angeles, Carnival Corporation announced that it plans to move its San Diego-based vessel Carnival Spirit to service in Australia in 2012.

The three vessels account for a large percentage of the cruise passenger traffic moving through the two ports, with the Mariner of the Seas alone accounting for just over 40 percent of the Los Angeles port's total 755,000 annual cruise passengers.

Estimates suggest that a cruise ship call at a Southern California port pumps between $1 million and $2 million in the local economy.

While industry watchers have pointed to the escalating violence in Mexico and the torpid world economy as logical reasons for the moves, other experts have also pointed to a general decline in passenger interest for the Mexican excursions.

Norwegian Cruise Lines said, while it plans to consider a return to Los Angeles at some point in the future, the departure of the Norwegian Star was directed by an "overcapacity in the market" and "decreased demand."