Cruising is a diverse and fast growing business. Five and a half million people took cruises in 1998, producing an industry revenue of over $5 billion. Since 1980, the average annual growth of this sector has been close to 8%. Surveys indicate that while nearly 56% of Americans want to take cruises, only 11% have done it.
North America is the largest market with two-thirds of all passenger bookings with an average cruise length of 6.5 days. Florida ports account for about 57% of departures, mostly to the Caribbean. Ports serving Alaska are in second place. In the world market, Europe ranks second to North America.
Cruise products are offered for every pocketbook size and interest, even one for nudists a few years ago. Most popular is the "sun, fun, and the scent of shopping" in the Caribbean. Trip costs can be as little as a thousand dollars for the bargain-hunting traveler, with day rates on bargain cruises in the $150-$200 range. Top of the line five-star luxury ships can cost more than $800 a day per person. World cruises of 65-90 days are the top product, costing $45,000 to $250,000 (for penthouse suites). Remarkably, they sell well.