Cruise Business to Mexico Floundering

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    SAN FRANCISCO - MAY 01: Passengers from the Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas cruise ship look at the San Francisco Bay after departing from the ship May 1, 2009 in San Francisco, California. Several cruise ships are diverting to the Port of San Francisco instead of heading to destinations in Mexico as health authorities warn against unnecessary travel to Mexico due to the Swine Flu outbreak. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    Los Angeles' year-round cruising business appears to be sinking following announcements that two companies have reassigned Mexico-bound ships that used to call San Pedro home.

    Royal Caribbean International's Mariner of the Seas, one of the largest passenger ships that had served the West Coast, departed San Pedro earlier this year for more lucrative trips out of Europe and Galveston, Texas, according to the Daily Breeze.

    Earlier this month, Norwegian Cruise Lines reassigned the Norwegian Star from Los Angeles to Tampa, Fla., and seasonal cruises wrapped up with the Golden Princess' final trip to Hawaii.

    "We're really at the mercy of how people perceive Mexico as a whole, even if the port cities aren't reporting any problems," Chris Chase, the manager of business development for the Port of Los Angeles, told the Breeze. "We're hoping the market will quickly turn around and show a new interest in Mexico."

    About 605,000 travelers are expected to board ships for 150 cruises out of Los Angeles this year, less than half of the 1.22 million passengers in 2005, the port's busiest year on record.

    The outlook for 2012 is bleaker, with 450,000 passengers and 105 cruises projected.

    Cargo vessels generate most of the revenue in Los Angeles, but cruise ships account for 2-3 percent of the port's income.

    "It's going to take some time to recover, because our planning runs two to three years in advance," Chase said. "We're really trying to reach out and show that Mexico is still a great place to go for a vacation."

    Two cruise ships are due in port over next two weeks, as a part of worldwide voyages. But after that, the cruise ship terminal will be empty through August, when another two ships will make one-time visits to Los Angeles, the Daily Breeze reported. In the last week of September, the Carnival Spirit is due to arrive, along with the Disney Wonder and Princess Cruises.

    "Unfortunately, the cruise lines make more money by offering trips to Europe and Alaska," Chase said. "People come to Los Angeles looking for a desire to visit destinations with warm water, which leads us to Mexico."

    Overall, the cruise business is growing in North America, with 16 million passengers expected this year -- a 1 million increase over 2010, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.

    Business at the Port of Long Beach, home to two Carnival ships, is expected to remain steady over the summer.

    Since 2009, the port has logged about 390,000 passengers and 150 cruises to Mexico annually, and those figures should hold through 2012, Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen told the Daily Breeze.