Published On: Fri, Mar 25th, 2011

Cruise lines hit rough waters, navigate well

While the popularity of cruise vacations has never been higher, earnings at major cruise lines are down. First they adjusted operations in a depressed economy. Then they absorbed high oil prices to hold the line on fares. Now, thanks to the effects of worldwide travel turmoil and a natural evolution of the industry, cruise lines hit rough waters and have a full list of decisions to make. While changes are inevitable, count on cruise lines to not stray far from their proven formula for success.
We start with this week’s announcement by industry leader Carnival Corporation that said turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa could cost about $44 million in lost revenue. From changing itineraries for safety purposes to a lack of interest in traveling to troubled areas, 280 voyages had to be issued new sailing orders.

“We pulled out of just all North African stops, in Tunisia and Morocco and Egypt, and we’ve pulled out of — actually, in some cases, we’ve had to pull out of Israel because we got a lot of resistance,” said Howard Frank, Carnival’s vice chairman and chief operating officer.

Other lines reported a similar effect on operations because of worldwide turmoil too and timing could not have been worse. This just after cruise lines have announced/deployed a record number of ships to the European market. Viewed as a smart move at the time, the more lucrative European markets were to bring greater earnings that came along with higher prices cruise lines could get from under-served Europeans.

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