Call it the “battle of cruise occupancy” as both Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. rushed to proclaim that their ships were sailing quite full, despite the events of September 11. Carnival says it had 98 percent occupancy on it's six lines (Carnival, Holland America, Windstar, Seabourn, Costa, Cunard) between September 19 and September 23.
On its part, Royal Caribbean says its fleets of Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises notched a 92 percent occupancy rate on sailings between September 20 and September 24. The rate is even higher for seven-day cruises that departed in that window of time -- 97 percent.
Clearly these announcements, while designed to encourage timid passengers to keep on cruising, reflect a “back to life” trend, though skeptics may want to read between the lines to some extent. Neither Carnival nor Royal Caribbean actually specify what percentage-of-this-percentage comes from paying passengers rather than complimentary or near complimentary offers to travel agents and industry types to get onboard and add mass. In fact, some Boston area travel agents have told us that Norwegian Cruise Lines has offered them a free seven-day trip -- port fees are extra -- in an effort to fill the ship.