In the weeks after the Carnival Triumph debacle, cruise analysts and agents were quick to report that cruise sales remained strong, and that cruise lines felt no need to resort to “panic pricing” to fill ship cabins. Lately, however, it looks like Carnival is panicking.
The infamous Triumph episode, dubbed the “cruise from hell” and the “poop cruise” due to the fact that passengers were stranded for several days at sea without toilets after a fire in an engine room, was followed by a string of other ugly incidents involving Carnival ships. In the aftermath, politicians have been calling for a new cruise ship “bill of rights” for passengers. And apparently, travelers by and large have simply been avoiding booking Carnival sailings, to the point that the cruise line has felt compelled to offer last-minute cabins at fire sale prices.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that four-night Carnival cruises were being offered starting at just $149 per person—or a mere $38 per person, per night. (Normally, a cruise priced anywhere around $100 per person per night is considered a deal.) One travel agent explained to Bloomberg why it’s worth it for Carnival to drop prices so dramatically:
“The prices did go down,” said Manny Lubian, president of Futura Travel Inc. in Miami. “An empty ship doesn’t make as much money. They’d rather have bodies in them, buying drinks and spending money.”
While those prices seem remarkably cheap—perhaps even cheaper than just staying home, considering that meals and entertainment are included—they don’t include several mandatory fees, notably port charges and taxes. The total for two passengers in the cheapest Carnival cabin was $454, according to Bloomberg. Like most cruise lines, Carnival also adds service gratuities automatically onto passenger bills, to the tune of $11.50 per person, per day.
Carnival’s $149 sale has expired, but as of Monday the cruise line was offering a May 13 departure out of Miami on the Imagination starting at $179, or “as little as $45/night,” as the company’s website put it. After government taxes and fees (but not including gratuities), the total for two travelers in an inside cabin comes to $514.30.
A new report indicated that Carnival cruise prices dropped 9% for bookings made in March. Considering that springtime is generally a slow season for booking (and taking) cruises, it’s unsurprising that the pace of declining prices appears to be picking up.
A “poop cruise,” followed by failed health inspections among other blunders, will do that to a cruise operator.