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Cruise ship industry may not suffer much after Carnival 'Triumph' disaster

The Carnival Triumph cruise ship is moored in Mobile, Ala., on Thursday after drifting nearly powerless in the gulf for five days. It was moved Friday to a repair facility. The ship became a foul trap for passengers after an engine room fire.

Associated Press

The Carnival Triumph cruise ship is moored in Mobile, Ala., on Thursday after drifting nearly powerless in the gulf for five days. It was moved Friday to a repair facility. The ship became a foul trap for passengers after an engine room fire.

The unfortunately named cruise ship Carnival Triumph was anything but this past week. An engine fire left the cruise ship adrift for five days and deprived its 3,000-plus passengers of food, water, power and bathrooms. But the suffering will likely stop with the unfortunate people who were finally freed from the sewage-soaked ship on Thursday.

That's because the cruise ship industry itself will likely bounce back quickly despite what has been an undeniable public relations disaster, according to a senior cruise line analyst.

"The cruise lines have had a number of incidents over the last several years and generally we may see a small disruption in bookings," said Matthew Jacob of ITG Investment Research. "The booking trends get normalized, or regain strength, a week or so after the incident."

If the Triumph does affect the industry, it could be in the timing of its ordeal. This is "wave" season for the cruise ship industry, the first three months of the year, when many consumers book summer cruises. It's also when those who are tired of frigid temperatures and snowstorms book a last-minute escape to warmer climes aboard a cruise ship.

If consumers are scared off by what happened aboard the Triumph, Jacob said, then bookings for summer — traditionally the industry's most profitable season — could be affected. The cruise lines might drop their prices to lure consumers back.

The industry dropped prices last year, but only because demand was weakened by one of the worst disasters in modern cruise ship history: Carnival's Costa Concordia ran aground off the Italian coast and rolled onto its side, resulting in the death of 32 of its 4,200 passengers.

It happened on Jan. 13, 2012 — the start of wave season.

"Last year bookings slowed down for about two months (of wave season), and they didn't really change their prices," Jacob said. "They were forced to start offering some pretty heavy discounts in the last month before sailing began.

"I wouldn't expect cruise-goers to see an opportunity for cheaper cruises in the future. I believe after this story is kind of out of the news, the demand for bookings will return and prices should remain stabilized."

He said safety isn't as much of an issue for consumers already divided into two camps: those who want to get on a cruise ship and those who never will.

"Someone concerned about their safety," the analyst said, "is not going to respond to $100 off."

.Fast facts

Cruise calls

Statistics on cruise ships sailing out of the Port of Tampa.

Passengers

FY2011: 875,611

FY2012: 974,259

Revenue

FY2011: $5,989,412

FY2012: $6,755,687

Cruise ship industry may not suffer much after Carnival 'Triumph' disaster 02/15/13 [Last modified: Friday, February 15, 2013 8:33pm]
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