There was a time when everyone who's anyone cruised the Mediterranean or Northern Europe each and every summer. These were the ports of the rich and famous that offered the best sights devoted to history, architecture, art, culture, and shopping. But times are changing and it's clear that European ports will be much sleepier as soon as the summer season of 2014. That's because many lines have reduced their capacity in the region or even pulled out of the cruise season completely.
What's caused this disruption in the traditional European cruise season? A few things. A weak global economy means that Europeans have pulled back on vacation spending. Meanwhile, expensive airfare from US and Canadian cities is stopping many North Americans from booking these itineraries. With passenger rates dwindling, cruise lines had to make the tough choice to reduce capacity or skip the Mediterranean and other European ports completely next summer.
1. Carnival, which had two ships in the region this year—Carnival Legend and Carnival Sunshine (formerly Carnival Destiny)—has pulled out of Europe altogether in the 2014 summer season. Legend will instead sail out of Sydney, Australia. Replacement itineraries for Carnival Sunshine have not yet been determined.
2. Princess Cruises has traditionally enjoyed successful seasons in the Mediterranean and elsewhere in Europe and currently has seven ships in the region. It will redeploy two of those vessels—Pacific Princess and Crown Princess—to Alaska for the duration of summer 2014.
3. While Royal Caribbean will have the same number of ships—nine—in the Europe next year as it does now, the total number of passengers carried by those ships will be less than that of 2013. And, it's certainly down from the 12 Royal Caribbean ships that sailed Europe in 2012.
4. Even luxury line Regent Seven Seas has cut 20 European sailings in favor of cruises in the South Pacific and Asia (although these changes aren't yet reflected on its website).
Not everyone is worried about next summer. The more intimate luxury lines like SeaDream Yacht Club and Paul Gauguin Cruises haven't changed their plans and are expecting strong sales—especially since overall capacity in the region will be down. And, while Windstar Cruises is sending Wind Spirit to French Polynesia next summer, it also picked up a new yacht—Star Pride (formerly Seabourn Pride)—which will sail 7- to 9-night voyages from Rome, Athens, Venice, and Istanbul in 2014.
Who's Doubled Down on Europe?
We're glad you asked. Star Clippers, which operates a fleet of three clipper ships, will deploy each of them in the Mediterranean between April 28 and October 25.
Andrea M. Rotondo is a freelance writer based in New York City. She covers cruise news and luxury travel trends for Fodors.com and writes for a variety of outlets, including her website Luxury Travel Mavens. Follow her on Twitter: @luxtravelmavens.
Photo credit: Photo courtesy of Windstar Cruises