Cruise ship industry holds up in rough waters

Some lines are reporting record bookings despite global economic uncertainties and a series of well-publicized disasters.

By Bruce Kennedy Feb 12, 2013 4:38PM

Image: Cruise ship ( Keith Wood/Corbis)Cruise ships have taken a public relations pounding recently.


Unflattering or negative stories seem to appear on a regular basis. There was the fire this past weekend that left the Carnival Triumph adrift in the Gulf of Mexico and thousands of passengers stuck in a reeking nightmare, the deadly emergency drill accident earlier this month on a Thomson Majesty vessel, and outbreaks of what was thought to be norovirus over the holiday season on Cunard's Queen Mary 2 and Princess Cruises' Emerald Princess.

And, of course, there was last year's Costa Concordia disaster off the Italian coast.


It was a difficult 2012 for the cruise ship industry. Negative publicity after the Concordia tragedy slashed earnings early in the year. Then there was the effect of higher fuel prices, the ongoing global recession and the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy to cruise line facilities in the Caribbean and along the U.S. East Coast -- as well as to essential connecting airlines and rail services for cruise ship passengers.


But despite the financial rough seas, the cruise ship industry appears to be bounding back.


Industry giant Carnival Corp. (CCL), whose brands include Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America, Cunard, Princess Cruises and Costa Cruises, just announced a record number of guests for a single one-week period -- between Jan. 28 and Feb. 3 -- with gross bookings of more than 187,000 guests.


And the company said bookings were at unprecedented levels across its 24-ship fleet.


Carnival competitor Royal Caribbean Cruises (RCL), which owns Celebrity Cruises, reported a decline its fourth-quarter earnings from a year earlier. But the company is expecting a better 2013. And the Wichita Business Journal says Royal Caribbean's booking volumes are about 20% higher from a year earlier.


"We're happy with the strong bookings we're seeing in the United States, but we're unhappy about the weakness we're seeing in many of the European Union countries, most notably Spain and the U.K," said Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain during last week's earnings conference call. "Even though the economies in the U.S. and in places like Germany and France still aren't very good, or aren't great, it's really the weakness in Southern Europe that is keeping our yields from truly exciting growth."

Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH), which went public last month, reported better-than-expected fourth-quarter profits and revenue on Monday after the markets closed.

The South Florida Business Journal reports Norwegian plans to use part of the estimated $477.6 million raised by its IPO to pay down its $3.1 billion debt. It's also expected to launch two new cruise ships within the next year, while a third ship is expected to open for business in late 2015.

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Feb 15, 2013 12:20PM
the cruise line could have handled this better perhaps a sister ship to the rescue transfer people to a ship that works alot of stories probaly true thier will always exagerated facts i,m sure it must have been tough things do happen glad people are safe anything can happen anywhere flood blizzard tornado  stay safe be ready heed warnings !!!!
Feb 15, 2013 4:35PM
Not sure why the passengers were not taken off the boat earlier. You would think that there would be plenty of other boats available to ferry them to safety much sooner than to pull the whole boat by one tugboat. I think this will turn a lot of people off from considering a cruise, not just because of the problems, but the uncaring reaction of the company.
Feb 15, 2013 4:32PM

Looks like CARNAVAL COMPANY needs a overhall!!!  There are some amazing vessels out there with perfect records NOT CARNAVAL!




Feb 15, 2013 6:11PM
From my past experience, a cruise in October 2012 through Carnival, I thought the ship itself needed a lot of work.  The food was lukewarm, there was a sewage odor in the hallways, toilet didn't flush for the first two days we were on board, and ship maintenance workers were doing a major overhaul on stairways on an open deck.  All of these have made me make the decision that I will not cruise on Carnival again.
Feb 16, 2013 1:27AM
This is pure neglect and proof that these ships are too big and not built correctly since the Titanic? Years ago it was determined for these large ships to have Auxillary Backup at MIDSHIPS, which would corrected any fires in the rear engine room? It's now, how many dumbies they can get on board with min expense >>.
Feb 12, 2013 11:20PM

No thanks to going on a cruise..especially after all these "minor" problems that have been coming up.

I would rather vacation in the Texas Hill Country, or at a cabin in the mountains. You can leave if you want...but not on an overgrown and crowded boat.

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