This week I attended "Cruise Shipping Miami" - formerly known as "SeaTrade" - at the cavernous Miami Beach Convention Center. An intern at the firm, Caitlin Burke, also made her first appearance at the convention. Caitlin wrote a senior thesis at the University of Florida entitled "Qualitative Study of Victimization and Legal Issues Relevant to Cruise Ships." Caitlin is also a social media expert having written several blogs which were recognized as the "best in blogs" by the 3,000 member LexBlog network.
As you can see in my Flickr photographs, we made ourselves right at home and had a great time.
The first thing that strikes a first time visitor to the cruise convention is the size and energy of the event. You can get an idea of how much money is involved in the $35,000,000,000 (billion) cruise industry. The convention hosts hundreds of port and shipping agencies, tourist boards, shipbuilders, and vendors from places that you didn't realize even existed much less had a connection to cruising.
With one exception, the vendor booths were friendly and very interactive. Here's the good, bad, and ugly:
SeaTrade - the Good ...
The tourist board and port booths were outstanding. The "Cruise Irish," Port of New Orleans Commission, and Slovenia Cruise booths were very friendly and the staff professional and informative. The "Cruise Irish" delegates had a distinct advantage given the fact that its was St. Patty's Day and they were dispensing free Guinness! The New Orleans Port contingency was doing a good job. They handed out Pat O'Brien Hurricane punch and Mardi Gras beads as their band played "Hey Pockey Way" by the Neville Brothers.
I couldn't resist forcing Caitlin to stand for a photograph (photo above left) with the musicians at the Slovenia Cruise booth!
The tourist boards were without exception friendly. They board members went out of their way to be conversational. They handed out souvenir trinkets as they promoted the cruise services and tourist opportunities in their home countries.
The technical / service vendors had an interesting array of products. Given the nature of our law practice, I was particularly interested in the safety and security products. We stopped by and looked at the "Thermo Cruise Baby" by the Norwegian group Regatta ("Safe at Sea") as well as an impressive number of life saving preservers and and life boats sold by Viking, including another child's life vest (photo right).
One of the more interesting booths was the "Castle Shipboard Security Program" which is run by Captain Jeffrey Kuhlman who has first hand experience being boarded by pirates. He trains mariners to protect themselves and their vessel "from the ravages of piracy and terror." His partner and spouse, Glenna Kuhlman (photo below, left), attended the booth and was very interesting as she explained their security program.
The issue of piracy and whether the cruise industry has taken adequate steps to protect cruise passengers is something I have addressed in prior articles:
We really appreciated Ms. Kuhlman's friendly description of her company, and we hope that the cruise industry gets on board with the training program.
SeaTrade - the Bad ...
The Cruise Shipping "Social Media Suite" was the pits. The Cruise Shipping Miami trade group advertised its "social media" lounge, which had four sets of tables and chairs, a sitting area with a couch and lounge chairs, and a couple of computers. A sign invited the attendees to "get connected" and "stay connected" on FaceBook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
The weird thing was absolutely no was was there. Only three employees sitting at a table. I stopped briefly by one of the computers when I first entered the convention, and updated my status on my twitter page @CruiseLaw.
A few hours later, we returned to the "suite" and sat down at one of the empty tables adjacent to a number of cafes. We thought we would have a quick lunch (a hotdog and fruit drink) and rest our feet before returning to see the remainder of the show. But one of the Cruise Shipping Miami employees told us to leave because they "were tired of cleaning up after people who used their tables." So we obliged. As we began to take our 1/2 eaten hotdogs with us, we watched another employee chastise other attendees who had walked into the lounge with a soft drink.
When we left, the lounge was completely empty. Except for the three "Cruise Shipping Miami" employees talking to each other at one of the tables, drinking soda.
We have written about how some of the cruise lines, like P & O Cruises, have outstanding social media programs while others in the cruise industry are clueless. Take a moment and read Cruise Lines and Social Media - P & O Cruises Hits A Home Run to see how the cruise industry is handling social media.
Cruise Shipping Miami's Twitter page @CruiseShipping has a pitiful 137 followers and on only 2 lists. In the world of "social media," it's clueless. It's staff? Boorish. Walk by and take a look yourself today, but don't make the mistake of sitting down with a hotdog.
SeaTrade - ... and the Ugly
The buzz at the cruise convention has been the cruise line executives mocking Alaska's strict environmental regulations. The CEO's of Holland American Lines and Celebrity threatened Governor Parnell, who was in attendance, that they will pull cruise ships from Alaska if the state did not ease up on the taxes and pollution regulations. The Alaska Dispatch and Travel Agent Central have excellent articles on this issue.
Unlike the powerless Caribbean countries who are desperate for U.S. tourist dollars, Alaska has a strong economy. Its citizens voted long ago to impose a $50 head tax to protect its pristine waters. Alaska has the only "ocean ranger" program in the nation where a state environmental official boards the cruise ship and monitors cruise ship discharges while the vessels are in Alaskan waters.
Alaska is smart to protect its natural resources. The cruise industry has a deplorable environmental record and Carnival and Royal Caribbean have pleaded guilty to multiple felonies for wastewater violations and lying to U.S. Coast Guard.
The image of the CEO of HAL (which has recent wastewater violations on the books) lecturing a Governor of a progressive state like Alaska is rather repugnant (photo above, courtesy of Travel Agent Central). The cruise industry already has an image of being arrogant and certainly the least diverse group of professionals around. The image of six white, male, suited, Miami executives chastising Alaska should be a sign that Alaska is doing something right. It should continue to resist the bullying and protect its waters from exploitation by the cruise industry.
One of the strange things about this years convention is that there were no U.S. agencies in attendance. Where was the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)? Where was the Federal Drug Administration (FDA)? The cruise industry is facing a crisis with norovirus and there is no focus on this issue at the convention? Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) was in attendance and assigned agents to respond to questions about crimes on cruise ships returning to ports in South Florida. Where was the FBI this year?
Another strange thing was that the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA)'s booth was way in the back of the convention center. It was poorly staffed and attended.
The most prominent feature at the CLIA booth was a giant dispenser of Purell hand sanitizer, which by the way doesn't kill norovirus.
Cruise line executives Travel Agent Central
All other photos Jim Walker's Flickr photographs