Even South Floridians who have never cruised can appreciate the industry’s financial contributions, which amount to almost $8 billion in direct spending in the Sunshine State in 2014. That gives Florida the lion’s share — almost 38 percent — of the $21 billion spent nationwide, according to a study released Monday by the Cruise Lines Industry Association.
And passenger counts are on the rise. The number of U.S.-based passengers grew 5.8 percent from 2013, to 11.33 million. Embarkations at U.S. ports rose by 13.9 percent, according to the study. That outstripped worldwide passenger growth as cruise lines redeployed from the Mediterranean to the U.S. amid a slowing European economy.
Worldwide, the total number of passengers was about 22 million in 2014 — a 3.4 percent increase over 2013, and a 68 percent increase over the past decade. That number is expected to hit 23 million in 2015.
Lorri Christou, CLIA’s senior vice president of strategic marketing and communications, attributed overall passenger and spending growth to innovative shipboard amenities, new niche cruise products, investment in port infrastructure and an increase in the number of ships.
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“Capacity and passenger increases tend to be aligned,” she said. “The reality is if we will build it, they will come.”
“We continue to see new ships, new ports and destinations. Overall, we’re seeing the results of delivering on the consumer experience,” she said, noting that cruise vacations get the highest satisfaction ratings of any vacation experience category.
In recent years, cruise ships have added onboard adventure activities including surfing, zip lining and sky-diving simulation; gourmet dining experiences designed by celebrity chefs and more variety in destinations. Ship size and cruising style also have diversified, including ocean-going megaships, yacht-sized vessels and ships built specially for rivers.
“The cruise industry has really evolved over the past five years,” said Christou. “There really is a cruise out there for every style and every budget.”
Florida remains the center of the cruise world, boasting the three busiest U.S. ports, in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Cape Canaveral. Directing spending generated 146,401 jobs paying $6.82 billion in income in the Sunshine State in 2014, according to the report. The dollar value of direct spending in the state grew 8.4 percent in 2014 over 2103.
Miami, headquarters to the three major cruise companies, remained the world’s largest cruise port, with a total of 2,549 passenger embarkations — an increase of 26.5 percent over 2013. At Port Everglades, the number of passengers grew by 5.1 percent, to 1.94 million.
In recent months, several ships have announced they will homeport in Miami, including Norwegian Escape, which arrived in November. MSC, Carnival and Royal Caribbean have announced they will bring new ships to PortMiami in the next few years, and Virgin Cruises has said it will base its line here when it launches in 2020. At most major lines, ship size is also growing.
Direct spending includes spending by the cruise lines and their passengers and crew in the U.S. That includes 152,272 direct jobs that paid $7.02 billion in wages in 2014, according to research conducted by Business Research & Economic Advisors and commissioned by CLIA. Cruies lines spend $17.04 billion on categories including food and beverage, paper and printing, industrial machinery, computers, technical services and services and government fees. Passengers and crew spent almost $4 billion.
The total figure represents a 4.6 percent increase in direct expenditures over 2013. When indirect economic impacts are included the industry claimed a total 2014 economic impact of $46 billion.
Overall, leisure travel among Americans has increased as the economy has improved, according to research by the U.S. Travel Association.