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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.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 18, 2013 2:32PM

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.


The Carnival Triumph cruise ship is towed toward the port of Mobile, Ala. last week. 
© Lyle Ratliff/Reuters
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.”


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Feb 19, 2013 1:16PM
I suppose if you like eating like a pig, crammed into a room the size of a closet and elbowed around by other rude passengers in the buffet line, you will love cruising.  No thanks.  Cruising used to be nice.  Before year 2000.  Now it offers the same experience that flying does.  Nickeled and dimed along with the privelege of standing in endless lines beginning with the demand for your credit card to pay their mandatory "tips" for the entire stay even before you set foot on the boat to endless searches to make sure you are not sneaking a coke on board so you might not buy their overpriced soda pop.  I took my last cruise about 6 years ago.
Feb 18, 2013 6:11PM
I will bet that Triumph will offer a good price on a cruise. I bet those stranded passengers were really pooped when they finally disembarked.
Feb 19, 2013 3:39PM
To the person who hasn't cruised in 6 years  - I've taken 4 cruises since 2009 and none of them were as you described.  Since you haven't cruised since 2007, perhaps you should consider trying another.
Feb 19, 2013 12:25PM
...ive been on a cruise myself ....luckily I won it and had an outside room with a balcony, a lot of people I saw had rooms with just a porthole...yuk....the first thing I hated was that if you dont get a chair on the deck to relax in the sun by 6am wont get one ...they dont have enough lounge chairs for you....the second thing that really bothered me was the lack of security on board...we came accross an employee having to hold off about 5 young drunk passengers by himself ...luckily I came by or he would have gotten pounded.....the last fiasco was that we couldnt port in Cancun for some reason so we went to some other port that was just a tourist trap....never again....I will stay on terra firma thankyou
Feb 18, 2013 6:30PM
I'm keeping my eyes open but I don't really expect bookings to drop - except on the Triumph and maybe other same-company Caribbean cruises.  I'm already committed to watching extended family pets for three weeks of this coming summer due to cruise vacations and I'm likely to do one as well - though we may elect to do a Danube River cruise which, of course, won't be influenced by the stranding far from port incident.  But who knows?  In the Summer of 2002, because of 9-11, Alaska Cruises weren't filling up and four of us paid $1100 each for an inside passage cruise on Holland-America's Volendam when the prices were dropped about a month before the cruise: they were $1800 each before that (plus about $500/each round-trip airfare from the East Coast to Vancouver in any case).
Feb 18, 2013 4:59PM

You might see some deals in the short run, but cruises have been booking fast just like

car sales are way up and housing has greatly improved.Corporate profits are way up.

The bears love to give us gloom and doom,but business where I live is going better than

I expected.I`m hiring workers and raising wages.

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