Customers could see deals after nasty cruise
Many people say the tale of the crippled Triumph is unlikely to dissuade them from booking a new trip.
This post is from MSN Money contributor Tanya Mohn.
Tales of horror from aboard the disabled cruise ship Carnival Triumph, as disgusting as they are, appear unlikely to cause long-term damage to the industry.
In fact, consumers could benefit in the near term as cruise operators offer incentives in an effort to overcome the public relations nightmare of the crippled ship, which resulted in overflowing toilets, long lines for food and sweltering conditions for 4,200 passengers and crew as the ship drifted without power for days in the Gulf of Mexico.
“People with little or no experience cruising are a bit nervous by the chilling stories and images that have been reported,” said Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic. “But these incidents are not the norm. Experienced cruisers know that.”
Cruise Critic conducted an online survey in the days following the fire that found that among readers who have cruised, the Triumph recent incident had little impact.
Close to 3,000 readers responded to the question: “Does the Carnival Triumph fire put you off cruising?” Nearly 90 percent said “no.” Of those, almost 62 percent indicated that they were not worried, and would cruise again. More than 27 percent said they were worried but would still cruise.
“It will have a short-term effect, but it’s just too early to tell,” Spencer Brown said. “People who are booked to sail soon cannot cancel, or they will lose money,” unless they have unusually strong cancellation insurance policies. She expects it ill take about two weeks before the immediate impact will be known.
But “perception is as powerful as reality,” she said, so future cruisers “may look forward to bargains they may not have gotten” before.
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. Prices will be cut only as a last resort, she said.
Other experts agree the immediate aftermath will be favorable for consumers.
“Any pain that Carnival and the cruise industry justifiably endure will be mostly short-term, as they have the financial means to fight to another day,” said Michael Gordon, CEO of Group Gordon, a corporate and crisis PR firm. “Carnival must show how they'll do things differently so that this never happens again -- and then build a track record without these kinds of incidents. If they do that, they can not only recover, but also thrive again. In the meantime, I'd expect that Carnival and its competitors will offer financial incentives to ensure their second chance.”
The industry has a track record of bouncing back strongly after serious incidents, like last year’s wreck of the Costa Concordia, another ship operated by a Carnival subsidiary, in which 32 people died off the coast of Italy after the ship hit a rock.
For months afterwards, “it was very clear the industry suffered a massive hit,” Spencer Brown said, but the industry responded quickly. New safety policies were instituted by Cruise Lines International Association, a global trade group. One of them requires that passenger emergency drills known as muster drills, be conducted before departing from port rather than within 24 hours of sailing. It is expected to be made mandatory by the International Maritime Organization, a United Nations agency that oversees maritime safety.
The Carnival Triumph incident “was awful and inconvenient, but the passengers were safe,” said Spencer Brown. “Engine fires happen.” But it is a problem that is likely to get better, she said, noting that the IMO passed “Safe Return to Port,” a regulation that stipulates that all new ships built in 2010 or later must include more stringent safety requirements. (The Triumph was built prior to 2010.)
“We are going to see more hassle-free, trouble-free cruising as we more forward,” she said. “I’d hate for people to be scared off permanently.”
More Smart Spending:
You might see some deals in the short run, but cruises have been booking fast just like
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I expected.I`m hiring workers and raising wages.
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