Cruise Europe celebrates 30 years of development and growth with plenty more to come

The idea for an organisation specifically designed to promote cruising in Northern Europe was first floated by Anne Dunderdale in the Fontainebleau Hotel Miami Beach during the Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention and Exhibition in March 1990.

She was accompanying her husband Iain who was there to promote Invergordon, a port in Cromarty Firth.

He happily remembers a visit from Brendan Corrigan of Carnival Cruise Line who visited the stand then and every year thereafter until he retired. “Although it would be 20 years before the first Carnival ship called at Invergordon,” he told me recently. Other regular visitors were Herman van Deursen from Holland America Line, Mike Ronan and Rick Strunck from Royal Caribbean and Michael Pawlus, then working for Royal Viking Line which was the only cruiseline to venture to visit Northern Europe at that time.

Michael Pawlus is now director of strategic itinerary & destination planning at Azamara, and commented: “I have been designing itineraries for 30 years now and Cruise Europe has been a valuable association for me as a source of port and destination information through the years as well as a great mechanism to establish relationships in the region.”

Having previously worked in the tourism business, Anne suggested it might be a good idea to form an association of ports to market the whole of Northern Europe as a cruise destination, principally to the US cruise operators who at that time concentrated on the Caribbean and Alaska and had little idea of what Europe could offer.

The following year a working party drawn from the ports of Bergen, Cork, Cromarty Firth, Ghent, Oslo, Rouen and Tilbury distributed a business prospectus to potential members under the working title of the North European Ports Co-Operative. Back then the idea, quite simply, was to encourage more cruise visits to the area and extend the season beyond June, July and August.

In December 1991 in Copenhagen the fledgling cooperative was formally constituted at an Extraordinary General Meeting at which 21 port members joined together under the title of Cruise Europe.

Aris Zarpanely from Equity Cruises was elected president, Mike Meyjes from the Port of Tilbury became the first executive manager and Lord Ambrose Greenway from Eurolist Ltd, which worked closely with Tilbury and Le Havre amongst others, volunteered to be secretary/treasurer.

The first council members were Bodil Andersen from Trondheim, Nils Standal from Bergen, Iain Dunderdale from Cromarty Firth, Sean Geary from Cork, Andre de Wilde from Ghent, Per Schmidt from Copenhagen, Jan Koster from Amsterdam and Mike Deeks from Falmouth.

The official launch took place at the Seatrade Cruise Convention in Miami which began in 1985 with just 200 attendees but now numbered 3,500. The first CE exhibition stand with four booth spaces cost £8,300 (€9,760) and so began the annual tradition of members sharing a stand.

Three members made presentations, with Jean Werbowy from the Port of Rouen saying: “Europe is truly a whole wealth of untapped beauty and centres of interest to discover – the New World is in Europe as far as the future development of the cruise industry is concerned”. How right he was.

It was during the conference that Tim Harris, then ceo of P&O Cruises, commented that over the next decade cruising would become a truly worldwide industry, though the Caribbean would still remain its main volume base.

That same year the first newsletter was produced and Meyjes and Lepsoe made the first visit to US cruiselines to promote CE and its members. It was a while before the first US road trip with a group of members took place in 1995.

In November 1992 the first AGM was held at the Marriott Hotel in Amsterdam. Membership had grown to 40 ports from 31 at the time of the launch.

Nigel Lingard, cruise industry management consultant and more recently moderator at CE conferences, was a keen supporter of the ‘ports consortium’ concept from the outset, and well remembers initial discussions with Ambrose Greenway and founder members.

“I think I may have attended every AGM since then,” he told CE. “At Fred. Olsen we were expanding the fleet, whilst looking for smaller ports in order to differentiate our product. CE gave potential cruise call ports an opportunity to reach out to us and demonstrate their USPs; whilst the annual meetings put faces to the names and helped to reassure cruiselines of the port management’s credibility. This process is, I believe, still as important as ever.”

It was in 1993 that Costa Cruises dipped its toes in the North European market for the first time, bringing with Daphne and Enrico Costa to its shores. High demand led to the larger Costa Allegra replacing Daphne the following year.

At that time Rod Mcleod, evp Royal Caribbean and chairman of Cruise Lines International Association, made a telling point in his keynote address at Seatrade. He talked about a ‘virtually untouched passenger source market in the nations of Western Europe … a market of more than 300 million people that have the time, the money and a strong inclination to vacation travel’. And so began the move east across the pond.

By now the press had picked up on the association’s presence. Lloyd’s List and International Cruise Review both published special features. At about this time the port of Reykjavik offered to produce a quarterly newsletter at its own expensive with Agust Agustsson volunteering to be editor.

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(Cruise Europe)