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Jason

CLIA Cruise Lines Ride Wave of

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CLIA Cruise Lines Ride the Wave of Unprecedented Growth

MIAMI BEACH, March 15 -- The good news just keeps getting better for the 19 cruise lines and 16,500 travel agencies that are members of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). Spurred by a strong upsurge in cruise travel, the tally for passengers choosing to sail last year surpassed -- by far -- all previous booking records. In all, a record 10.5 million people took a cruise in 2004, it was announced today at the 20th annual Seatrade Cruise Shipping Convention. CLIA predicts just over 11 million travelers will cruise in 2005.

The numbers break down as follows: 8,870,901 North American passengers sailed on CLIA-member line ships in 2004, compared with 7,990,246 in 2003 -- which represents a year-to-year increase of 11 percent. In 2004 1,589,936 international passengers sailed on CLIA lines, compared with 1,536,714 in 2003.

"Bookings for 2005 are coming in at a fast and furious pace, far in advance of departure dates," said Terry L. Dale, President and CEO of CLIA -- the cruise industry's chief marketing organization and North America's largest travel industry association based on agency membership. "Many of the positive trends we saw emerging in January are becoming firmly entrenched. The booking window continues to narrow, consumer demand continues to rise, and travelers are flocking to more far-flung destinations like Europe and Asia."

RIDING THE 'WAVE'

Although there are more cruise departures and itineraries than ever before -- 68 vessels will have debuted between 2000 and the end of 2005 -- CLIA's member line ships are sailing at a remarkable 104 percent occupancy rate. Furthermore, CLIA-member lines report that the robust bookings generated during this year's Wave Season -- the period from January to March during which cruise lines capture their largest share of annual bookings -- is bringing record numbers of new passengers into the cruise fold.

"Bookings are so robust that some of our member agencies are scrambling to find staterooms on certain itineraries requested by their clients," Dale said. "While there are still exciting itineraries and a choice of staterooms available on many sailings, consumers should act fast."

To ensure that passengers obtain the ship, stateroom and itinerary of their choice, Dale suggests travelers book at least six months in advance. Booking further out also entitles consumers to attractive early booking opportunities typically unavailable to cruise guests who reserve space closer in to sailing dates.

THE EUROPE BOOM

Travelers are flocking to Europe in droves -- and choosing to cruise to insulate themselves from the sticker-shock of European land vacations. Cruise vacationers in Europe pre-pay in U.S. dollars, which protects them from the effects of the weak dollar abroad. In fact, the high cost of the euro against the U.S. dollar, coupled with extraordinary early booking opportunities, is transforming 2005 into a banner year for cruising in Europe.

THE VALUE EQUATION

Cruise vacations offer the travel industry's greatest inherent value. One price covers everything -- accommodations, all meals, snacks and entertainment. Furthermore, CLIA cruise lines constantly up the ante on features and amenities. Today's ships have cutting-edge facilities that equal or surpass those found at the best land-based resorts. Guests can revel in a host of cutting-edge nightclubs and discos, find tranquility in state-of-the art spas, or gaze at the stars while watching a movie on a 300-square foot poolside screen. CLIA member line ships feature multiple dining venues and unlimited activities - from ice-skating to acting classes to scuba diving. All the while, cruise guests have the opportunity to travel to ports across the globe.

HOME SWEET HOME

Since CLIA's inception in 1975 the number of North American "homeports" -- cities from which cruise ships offer regular departures -- has nearly tripled. Vacationers now have a staggering 30 homeports from which to choose because CLIA's member cruise lines recognized North Americans' desire for departure ports within driving distance, which eliminate the expense and hassle of flying and reduce the overall price of a cruise.

A FUTURE BRIGHT WITH PROMISE

Always seeking new ways to address its guests' vacation desires, the cruise industry will continue to grow through continued fleet expansion throughout this year and beyond. CLIA fleets will introduce 20 more cutting- edge ships between now and 2008.

"CLIA will continue to support the travel agent community's cruise sales efforts and initiatives by providing the travel industry's premiere educational curriculum and cruise marketing strategies," said Dale. "We will also continue to promote CLIA-member agencies as the 'best choice' for North American vacationers to plan, select and book a cruise."

About CLIA

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is the premier nonprofit cruise industry marketing organization comprising 19 leading cruise lines, which collectively accommodate 95 percent of North American cruise passengers. CLIA member travel agencies -- of which there are 16,500 -- are considered the consumer's very best resource when planning a cruise vacation.

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