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Record numbers likely to take a cruise

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NEW YORK, Nov. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- The future of the cruise industry looks bright, according to the latest research conducted for Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) by NFO Plog Research.

In its biannual Market Profile Study, CLIA reports that the number of Americans who stated their intent to "definitely" or "probably" take a cruise within the next three years has risen to nearly 44.3 million, a new record.

Plog researchers estimated that this level of interest likely will translate into continued market growth that will result in nearly 27 million people taking a cruise vacation during the next three years.

The study found that for the majority of respondents, interest in taking a cruise vacation has remained strong over the past two years. Where interest levels have changed, they are more than twice as likely to have increased (32%) than to have decreased (14%).

"The study shows that half (56%) of those who have ever cruised have done so in the last five years," says Bob Sharak, CLIA's executive director. "And the number of people interested in cruising continues to grow. The cruise industry is consistently working to add to its pool of satisfied cruisers by adding new ships, itineraries and amenities than ever before to the many options available to today's cruiser, so there truly is a cruise for everyone."

Cruising continues to earn high grades in the satisfaction department. The percentage of respondents indicating extreme satisfaction with cruising continues to lead all other types of vacations and even increased by 9 percentage points compared to the study done two years ago.

The study found that cruising was rated as better than other vacation in the following key areas:

Fine dining (70%)
Being pampered (69%)
Chance to visit several different locations (67%)
Luxury (67%)

In particular, nearly 70% of past cruisers consider a cruise a better value for the money than other kinds of vacation experiences.

Large activity-packed ships appeal to three out of five (62%) Americans. Two in five find cruises that travel to cultural destinations (45%), upscale luxury ships (41%), or cruises on a new ship (41%) appealing.

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When it comes to destinations, the Caribbean tops the list of places that appeal to cruisers and non-cruise intenders, followed by Alaska. The Bahamas hold more appeal for intenders while Europe (including Mediterranean/Greek Islands/Turkey) has a greater appeal to cruisers. Other appealing places are Hawaii, the Panama Canal, Bermuda, and the West Coast of Mexico. Destination cruisers, who appear more adventurous, are more likely to select South America or Asia than other groups.

Past cruisers are more likely to want longer cruises than non-cruisers; the vast majority of potential cruisers expect to take a cruise of at least six days.

In all, CLIA estimates that 15 percent of the U.S. population has ever taken a cruise, a marked increase from the 3.6 percent who had ever cruised 1986, the first year the Market Profile Study was commissioned.

According to the CLIA study, prime cruise vacation prospects are on average 47 years old and have a household income of $63,000. Spouses (65%) are the most common cruise companions. With one cruise vacationer in five (18%) bringing children, the study confirms the growing importance of families to the cruise market.

The strongest target for future cruises is the former cruiser market. Seven in 10 (71%) former cruisers indicate that they have an interest in cruising again in the next three years. Of that same group, 70% have taken multiple voyages. Cruisers are frequent travelers -- they average almost 5 trips each year, approximately one-third of which are cruises.

For the next 12 months, most people believe there will be little change from their travel behavior in the past 12 months. Slightly more believe they will be traveling more (17%) as believe they will be traveling less (14%). The most common reason for reduction in travel plans now compared to a year ago is personal economic concern (26%); less common reasons are increased travel hassles (14%) and the effects of Sept. 11 (11%).

The CLIA Market Profile Study is conducted every two years by an independent research organization. A sample of 2,000 adults age 25 years and older and with household incomes of $20,000 and above were interviewed by telephone. About 144.3 million people (51% of the total U.S. population) are included in the sample definition.

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