April 10 - As ceremonies are held to mark 100 years since RMS Titanic set sail from Southampton on its ill-fated maiden voyage, Reuters talks exclusively to the UK CEO of Carnival Corporation, David Dingle about the industry's past, present and future. Hayley Platt reports.
Titanic's whistle sounds across Southampton - exactly 100 years after the liner set sail from the English port on her ill-fated trip. A flotilla of ships and hundreds of people took part in a memorial service at the berth she departed from. Despite the disaster cruising has thrived over the past century. A week before the anniversary Liz and Andy Long set off from Southampton on the Queen Victoria on a 17 days cruise around the Adriatic. They'd only just returned from an 11 night cruise in the Mediterranean. SOUNDBITE: Andy and Liz Long, cruise passengers from Berkshire, England, saying (English): "We like the sheer elegance of it and the mere fact that you unpack just once and wake up in a different country each morning. You can choose to stay on the ship there's plenty to do. We also like the dressing up in the evening and, we like that part as well." The cruise is no longer the preserve of the rich. The European Cruise Council says more than 6 million European passengers were carried last year, twice as many than a decade ago. David Dingle is UK CEO of Carnival Corporation the world's biggest cruise operator and parent company of Costa Cruises. Its cruise ship the Costa Concordia capsized off the coast of Italy in January killing at least 30 people. Carnival says $175 million has been wiped off its profits this year. SOUNDBITE: David Dingle, UK CEO of Carnival Corp. saying (English): "Immediately after the Concordia tragedy there was clearly a pause in the booking momentum as people needed to understand it and to be reassured once again of the safety record of the cruise industry." The Titanic sank after hitting an iceberg four days into it's journey to New York. More than 1500 people lost their lives. Southampton is now Europe's biggest port for cruise liners with 300 setting sail each year. And the industry continues to grow despite the current challenges posed by current high fuel prices. SOUNDBITE: SOUNDBITE: David Dingle, UK CEO of Carnival Corp. saying (English): "The biggest impact will be in slowing down the speed of our ships and that will probably have an impact on the places that we go to, how many ports we go to, how frequently and which ports we go to. I think as a result of that the cruise proposition will start moving more to what purely the ships themselves offer rather necessarily than the very many places that we go to." Maritime disasters have clearly had an affect on the industry over the decades. But Carnival is confident it can weather any storm. It has Asia, South America and Australia on its horizon - not as a destination but as a source of new passengers. Hayley Platt, Reuters.