While most of the travel industry struggled to stay profitable this year, cruises have never been more popular. Shrewd pricing and quick redeployment seem to have increased the appeal: According to the Cruise Lines International Association, more than 3.6 million North Americans went on a cruise during the first half of 2002, a slight increase over the same period in 2001. And the cruise product continues to evolve to meet the needs of the meeting and incentive market.
Ships enjoy an undisputed advantage over hotels: They can move. So if world conditions cause one destination to fall out of favor, a cruise line can move a vessel from that area to a more popular site. Immediately after September 11, 2001, several cruise operators took advantage of that capability. The biggest shift — a surprise to no one — was a move from distant waters back to North America. Alaska, always an appealing cruise destination, looked even better post-9/11. Many ships started sailing out of new or seldom-used domestic ports, often to the Caribbean.