Millions were watching two weeks ago as Carnival Triumph limped back to Mobile, Alabama, after an engine room fire left more than 4,000 passengers and crew stranded off the Gulf of Mexico for five days. Somewhere in those millions are cruisers undeterred from sailing again, even planning their next cruises as coverage played out, and, frankly, looking for deals to emerge.
In terms of cruising and pricing, the fire and events that followed onboard Carnival Triumph don’t appear to have had any effect — and probably won’t.
Cruise Critic reached out to those in the know — travel agents and advisors — to find out whether the international attention Carnival received would affect the prices on upcoming sailings, either on Carnival or in general.
Travel advisor Ralph Santisteban responded to our question on whether there has been a decline in cruising interest with, “On the contrary! Our agency (CruiseOne) in Miami has shown a rise in cruise sales of 40 percent when compared to last year, since the event on the Triumph occurred.”
Another travel advisor with CruiseOne, Debby Hughes, said in a phone interview with Cruise Critic that in five and a half years in business, she has never seen a dip in cruise bookings ever, even after Concordia hit a rock off the coast of Italy in January 2012 and capsized, resulting in 32 fatalities.
Further to the contrary, Hughes said last month was the strongest month she has seen she has been in business, and this month is shaping up to match it. “Consumers may be hoping for a price change, but the cruise lines don’t see a need for it,” she said. “The bookings aren’t stopping.”
Joad Hamed, vice president of American Discount Cruises and Travel, hasn’t seen a dip in sales since the situation onboard Triumph and doesn’t expect to see steep price cuts. “Carnival’s pricing is already very reasonable, so I don’t expect pricing to decrease significantly,” Hamed told Cruise Critic.
“Prices will be cut only as a last resort,” said our own Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. “If cruise operators find bookings slow, they may try to add value with onboard credits, upgrades and incentives such as all-you-can-drink alcohol packages, discounts on airfare and onboard restaurant specials.”
With the cruise industry still in the midst of a six-week yearly promotional period known as wave season, many lines are already offering added bonuses and incentives, such as the ones Spencer Brown mentions.
Between cruise lines’ planned and in-place wave season promotions and the added pressure to produce bargains, it begs the question: How much lower are cruise lines willing to go?
Regarding the short run for Carnival Cruise Line, Anthony Hamawy, president of Cruise.com, believes there might be a temporary price drop for last-minute travelers, but in the long run it will only be a “blip.” “Our sales remain surprisingly strong,” Hamawy told Cruise Critic. “I say that because between ABC’s 20/20 and Fox News, I thought for sure we would have seen a slowdown.”
Despite media coverage perceived as negative, 95 percent of respondents to a recent Cruise Critic poll agreed the fire onboard Carnival Triumph wouldn’t stop them from cruising again.
Similar sentiments live on the Cruise Critic boards, where many members can’t stress enough that they wouldn’t think twice about cruising.
“The [fire] on the Splendor in 2010 had a similar impact as did [Carnival Triumph]. However, this event seems to have an even greater understanding on the part of the consumer, that unfortunate and occasionally dangerous situations will sometimes happen in any facet of the travel industry,” Santisteban said. “It is how they are handled that matters most.”
Said Hughes: “Most people understand that things happen occasionally.”
With experts from every corner echoing the demand for cruises remains, one could speculate that a supply in steady demand might mean that cruise prices don’t have to fall very far, if at all.
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