Has the Carnival Triumph Episode Hurt Cruise Sales?

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Cruise industry insiders say that in the weeks after the Carnival Triumph debacle made news, cruise sales have remained strong, prices have remained steady, and overall, travelers today are just as likely to book a cruise as they ever were. The results of a new poll suggest otherwise.

By some accounts, cruise prices dropped 12% in the aftermath of last year’s Costa Concordia disaster, in which the ship sunk off the coast of Italy and 32 people died.

No one died on the Triumph, but because the ship received so much bad publicity while it was stranded for five days at sea, and because the conditions on board were so atrocious, the widespread assumption was that the episode would damage Carnival’s reputation and sales—and perhaps even hurt the cruise industry as a whole.

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So, has the cruise industry been hurting in the weeks since the Triumph was the subject of so much unwanted attention? Cruise agents—who have an obvious interest in spreading the word that business is good—say that (you guessed it) business has been good.

The week after Triumph passengers made it back to land—which happened to be around Valentine’s Day—agents in South Florida were telling the Sun Sentinel that sales hadn’t decreased in the slightest. In fact, they say just the opposite happened:

“We saw an unbelievable increase of 76 percent this Valentine’s day compared to last Valentine’s Day,” [iCruise.com’s Don] Walker said. “Our clients are certainly feeling the love right now with an amazing array of promotions in the market including free gratuities, free beverage packages and ship board spending credits.”

Stewart Chiron, known as “The Cruise Guy,” wrote:

The good news is that there hasn’t been a negative consumer response relating to Triumph. The current wave season continues to be strong for the industry, as evidenced by higher pricing, year-over-year. None of the cruise lines have engaged in “panic pricing.”

When asked by CruiseCritic if there had been a falloff in demand, one agent said, “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.” (Note that this is a comparison to the sales period right after the Concordia disaster.)

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At the end of February, according to USA Today, Wells Fargo analyst Tim Conder wrote that it appeared as if cruisers hadn’t been scared off by the Triumph debacle:

“Consistent with historical precedent following other ship incidents, our industry checks indicate that at this point … there has been no impact on experienced cruise customer bookings/pricing patterns, and … very minimal evidence that bookings/pricing among first-time cruisers has been impacted for any brand with the exception of the Carnival brand, (and) this to a limited degree,” Conder writes.

Cruise defenders say that travelers “understand that things happen,” and that problems like the Triumph fire are “outliers” or “blips” in what’s normally a safe, reliable industry. They also point out that, in their opinion, Carnival handled the situation as best as it could — by being upfront with the media, acknowledging its mistakes, and proactively offering compensation to passengers.

Considering the class action suits being brought against Carnival, as well as complaints from passengers stating that the cruise line has been trying to back off its promise to refund airfare expenses to customers, not everyone shares that positive opinion regarding Carnival’s response. In an online poll among cruise enthusiasts at CruiseCritic, 30% said that Carnival hadn’t done enough to make things up to passengers, compared to 37% who were satisfied with the cruise line’s efforts.

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Regardless of the “news” that cruise sales remain stable, and possibly even quite strong, the results of a new Harris Interactive poll indicate that the perception of Carnival and the larger cruise industry has, in fact, suffered lately:

“Not only is purchase intent in decline for Carnival – it’s down across the industry’s top brands, on average,” points out Harris Poll Insights Vice President Deana Percassi. “What’s more, while purchase intent is dropping for some brands, those lost potential sales are not being captured by any of the other tested cruise lines. Those potential customers are simply sailing away.”

More than half (53%) of those surveyed said they “somewhat agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement “I am less likely to take a cruise now than I was a year ago.” (Granted, many surveyed might not remember that a year ago, the world had just seen photos of a half-sunk, slumped-over Concordia in Italy.) Scores given to Carnival Cruise Lines for Quality, Trust, and Purchase Intent were the lowest in the industry to begin with, and they declined more substantially than other brands after the Triumph fire. Carnival’s Trust and Quality ratings dipped by 17% and 18%, respectively, and perhaps most importantly, Purchase Intent was down 13%.

What’s more, the BrandIndex, which tracks consumer perception of brands and overall “buzz,” indicates that Carnival’s reputation took a beating after the Triumph fire. “The [Carnival] brand has experienced one of the steepest drops in consumer perception for a brand since the twin crises of BP and Toyota in 2010,” a BrandIndex report states.

20 comments
EileenFlynn
EileenFlynn

Carnival Cruise line has great lawyers who are able to craft travel contracts that deny recourse to passengers who endure all manner of atrocious conditions. Carnival Cruise line also has double-talking executives whose policies have brought the reputation of the line to a disturbingly low status, and deservedly so. Passengers from the Costa Concordia and the Triumph have nightmarish tales to tell, and the media is paying attention. So is the public at large, and this is no surprise. My experience with Princess Cruises ( owned by Carnival) needs to be noted in the overall context of evaluating the industry.  My husband and I paid for Voyage B 237 on the Caribbean Princess which sailed into Hurricane Sandy. The ship left port in Red Hook, Brooklyn on 10/27/12 and venrured into the Atlantic Ocean where it met up with 30 foot seas and gale force winds before diverting to Boston harbor where it sheltered as that city was dealing with a state of emergency. We listened to weather forecasts, and fearing for our safety, we did not board. We did, however, ask for a refund and we were denied. We were subjected to a recitation of the fine print in the travel contract and our appeals to the effect that no cruise ship should sail into a hurricane fell on deaf ears. It is amazing that the governors who declared states of emergency and the transportation authorities who closed airports and shut down mass transit have no jurisdiction over cruise ships.

havingfun123
havingfun123

Just a few misconceptions here:

First, Pauly, I have been on two cruises (one NCL and the other RCL) and compared to what you pay for a hotel, transportation, entertainment and food you can't beat it.  You get a great show every night that would cost at least $50 for nose bleed seats.

Second, OU812 and CliffDavidson, you are wrong about the labor.  The last cruise I went on our waiter is from the carribean and his assistant is from Colombia.  The staff on cruise ships are so pleasant compared to people who work in restaurants and hotels on land. 

In closing, I would never travel on a Carnivel booze cruise.  My fiancee traveled once with them and will never again.  I can't think of a better way to see the world than cruising. 

RobertBaker
RobertBaker

Yes, I clearly remember my vacation at an all-inclusive resort; Club Med.Dilapidated sailing equipment, deli style food, tiny rooms and rudest staff I ever encountered!

If you want a great cruise, go with one of the top lines like Regent, Silversea, Celebrity, Seabourn, Crystal. Just don’t expect them to be cheap just like The Ritz Carlton, Grand Hyatt, Renaissance or Embassy Suites hotels. You get what you pay for!

And contrary to what you may have heard, you can leave whenever you want. You can disembark the ship at any port. You can go on a ship sponsored excursion or hire a cab to take you on an independent tour ...or just walk around. There are usually 4-5 restaurants to choose from, gyms, casinos, theaters, and a library. You can engage in all of the shipboard activities or none of them. I can't think of a vacation that offers more freedom plus you get to see a different port every day. I would not suggest leaving the ship in the middle of the ocean. And when the schedule says they will leave at 5 PM, they really will!

thegavinome
thegavinome

Hi...I'm an idiot...where, when, how soon,  can I book a cruise? 

pauly
pauly

Where else is it ok to make tons of people sick in a captive environment all the while calling it a dream vacation?  I'll never go on a cruise.

RobertBaker
RobertBaker

An outbreak of pneumonia occurred among people attending a convention of the American Legion at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia in July 1976. Some leading experts in Legionellosis including Tim Richardson have dated the first outbreak back to 1969 at a Legionnaires' convention in San Diego, California. Hundreds of Legionnaires apparently died.

JonathanThomas
JonathanThomas like.author.displayName 1 Like

Previously have taken Celebrity and now taking a Carnival cruise at the end of the month. The Triumph mess didn't have any impact on my final decision. I looked at Royal Caribbean and NCL, too. S*it happens.

Ballantine
Ballantine like.author.displayName like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 3 Like

I work for Carnival cruise lines and the last cruise only 41% of the ship had been booked in the US, all other bookings were from other ports of call. Normally, we are 75 to 80% booked from the US ports. Most of us that were on call from the Miami stint were told to stand down for a month. Now they are talking layoffs for almost all the US staff. Last cruise was very empty. Still none of our ships require any back-up systems and we have been told not to talk to the press. I don't care because I picked up a new job at the Hilton, pays better and I don't have to be away from home a month at a time. Working on cruise ship is like prison, once you are out to sea, they have you.

OU812IC
OU812IC like.author.displayName 1 Like

@Ballantine 

Ah a former employee of the wonderful cattle car company Carnival

Having the gumption to tell the truth

Good for you

DavidJ
DavidJ

@OU812IC @Ballantine  

Words are cheap on the internet...anyone can claim they are something they are not. How do you know this Ballentine person really is an employee of Carnival?

I could claim that I am too....

OU812IC
OU812IC like.author.displayName 1 Like

Oh yes I wanted to mention one more thing

Why do you think almost all cruise lines are registered in other countries

Mainly countries like Liberia(come on) & Greece Because they do not have to follow the safety and health laws that they would if they were registered in the U.S. Also cheap cheap labor

It has happened in the past but I can almost guarantee it will happen in the future to a very bad outcome. These cruise ships that are registered in these countries have to be very good targets for a terrorist event, easier than airplanes, easier than getting into the U.S. easier than attacking some Embassy, very Lax  or no security, hiring undocumented people etc.etc.

Why is it that Carnival is owned & registered in another country yet it was our Coast Guard and military that rescues them, yes I know in our waters and had our people on board, but then the U.S. Should make Carnival pay for the total expense of everything that had to do with the rescue to the tune of millions

CliffDavidson
CliffDavidson

@OU812IC OMG! Another example of your lack of true, factual knowledge about the cruise industry!  It is true that most, if not all, cruise ships of ALL cruise lines are registered in other countries.  But, every one that ports in an American port is subject to inspections by US authorities.  Another of your botched "facts" is that Carnival is owned by CCL corporation, is listed on the NYSE, and registered in the USA! The labor on the ships is primarily NOT from the country of registration but from the Asian countries!  And, lastly, how many terrorists attacks have been waged against a cruise ship versus an airliner?  Public bus?

OU812IC
OU812IC

@CliffDavidson @OU812IC 

Also sure they are SUBJECT to inspections like anyone who comes to the U.S.

But it never/rarely ever happens unless there is known issue

DavidJ
DavidJ

@OU812IC @CliffDavidson  

 You might want to check into that...they have required inspections by the USCG on a regular basis.

OU812IC
OU812IC

@CliffDavidson @OU812IC 

Sure buses are easier sure airlines were easier but there have been terrorist attacks on cruise ships look it up.

You are 100% correct ASIA

Where do you think India & Paksitan are located Dumb A** There were numerous Indian And Pakistani workers on a couple cruise's I took about 10 years ago 

OU812IC
OU812IC like.author.displayName 1 Like

Come on do you really think the cruise industry would admit sales are down of course not they want to blow this off and have everyone forget about it. The fact is this was not an isolated event. There have been many bad events over the last few years. Sinkings, quite a few incidents of many passengers getting either food poisoning or bad water sickness etc.etc.

Sorry but everytime I see a Carnival commercial on Tv advertising a rope swing, a climbing wall, a wave pool on their ships as that is the big draw to go on their cruise you know your not getting much. I could do all those things for nothing if I wanted to i don't need to pay money for it. These are just basically floating cattle cars. Herd you in, give you some ok food(if it does not make you sick) cruise out in the middle of nowhere and then stop in a couple of ports with numerous other cruise ships spend a few hours in port just long enough to see just the rip off tourist areas get back on and cruise for hours on end in the middle of nowhere.

There is a reason these cruises are cheap you get what you pay for. They are obviousley caterring to the masses of working middle class people who think paying $999.00 for a 5 day cruise is the vacation of a lifetime. I have a friend who played piano on one of the famous cruise lines, the stories are memorable. He went into areas of the ship tourists could not, he told me of how many mice and rats and bugs there were. He stated if you saw below decks and saw the handling and preparing of the food you would not eat it, they hire untrained foreigners because they can pay them very cheaply and that many don't speak English because they really do not want them talking or telling you too much.

I am not promotting anyone or anything here just personal experience, you want a real vacation for not all that much more. My wife and I tried Sandals Resort in the Bahamas last year $4200.00 all inclusive for both of us for 7 days with a $550.00 Air Fare credit, they picked us up at the airport, the rooms were amazing open wall facing the ocean, 24/7 anywhere on the resort top shelf booze, no matter where you are you call and they bring it to you(and I am talking true top shelf), 12 great restaurants(the food was truly world class). The resort was spotless, snorkeling, we took a small boat to a small island and spent half the day almost by ourselves(there were 3 other couples on the island) The nighttimne shows were very good and fun, you can stay on resort or go off and do whatever you like tours or not and see the real places not just the tourist traps. They treated us truly like we were the only ones there. We are going back this year. We take a vacation somewhere every year and have for 30 years this is the first time we have ever wanted to go back to the same place the following year

shxvank.ebooks
shxvank.ebooks

People that go on cruises probably aren't the most adventure seeking folks, so an overflowing toilet looks like the end of the world to them. Since they don't have that many options for traveling all inclusive on a vacation where they can pig out every night and such, they'll be back on the ships, guaranteed.

gstml76
gstml76 like.author.displayName 1 Like

For the 16 years my wife and I have been together, every time she has seen an ad for a cruise, or heard someone talk about a cruise they took, she would poke at me to take her on one. I stayed on the QE2 for a week one time while working on a company paid business trade show (long before meeting my wife) and while it was very nice, paying for the experience has never interested me. Ever since the Triumph debacle, she has repeatedly said she has changed her mind forever and would never go on a free cruise, let alone pay for one.

Unfortunately, it appears to be an industry that once prided itself on elegance and integrity is now controlled by corporate greed and complete incompetence. These companies have long forgotten that the cornerstone of their business was based on creating such a great experience for the passengers that they will come back for more and bring their friends.