Cruise industry sees rebound from recession

Last week, Kevin Sheehan, the chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line, opened an e-mail from his pricing guru with an update on ticket prices and bookings.

"Yee-haw,'" wrote Crane Gladding, an NCL senior vice president.

At least one corner of the Florida economy is showing some pizazz: the battered cruise industry.

After the worst-ever downturn for the South Florida-based industry in 2009, cruise bookings are going up. Cruise lines are starting to raise prices from the deep-recession bargain basement. And a few companies are even feeling bullish enough to start ordering new ships after a dry spell of nearly two years.

As the cruise industry gathers at the Miami Beach Convention Center this week for Seatrade Cruise Shipping Miami -- the industry's largest annual gathering -- executives are far more upbeat than they were just a few months ago.

"We're really doing well. Our pricing is doing well," said Sheehan, whose company will debut the hottest new ship of the year this summer, the NCL Epic. The ship boasts the first ice bar at sea, South Beach-style nightlife, and Blue Man Group, a quirky live show aimed at a younger crowd. "We think we're hitting on all cylinders," he said.

The caveat: "Things are improving, but improving off a pretty miserable 2009 from a pricing standpoint," said Sheehan, who is on a panel of cruise CEOs who will provide an industry outlook Tuesday at Seatrade, which is expected to draw 10,000 participants.

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