NEW YORK — Cruise watchers looking back at the industry’s past year say the Concordia disaster affected everything from prices to safety drills to first-time cruisers, but bookings appear to be picking up as the 2013 cruise booking season gets under way.
The first three months of each year are known as “wave season,” a period when many cruisers book trips as they plan ahead for summer vacations.
The Costa Concordia ran aground and capsized Jan. 13, 2012, killing 32 people just as last year’s wave season began.
Experts have blamed the captain for the disaster, saying he took the ship off course in a stunt. The wrecked ship is still lying on its side in waters off Tuscany, Italy.
“In hindsight the market took a bigger hit than anticipated,” said Michael Driscoll, editor of the industry newsletter Cruise Week. “First-time business (from people taking their first-ever cruise) was off in particular.”
The lowered demand led to a decline in prices because cruise lines are loathe to sail a ship without filling every room, so they’ll drop prices until the ship is at capacity.
Mr. Driscoll said a gradual recovery for the cruise industry began to emerge in the fourth quarter of 2012, and now, said Mr. Driscoll, a year after the Concordia disaster, “top travel agents are reporting a surprisingly strong winter season bookings for sailings that depart in later 2013, not great, but good.”
Heidi Allison-Shane, spokeswoman for CruiseCompete, said “cruise demand and prices were down significantly last year at CruiseCompete, with first quarter demand down in the 15 percent to 18 percent range. This was largely a result of the negative publicity surrounding the Costa Concordia sinking, but a very warm winter in most of the U.S. and a slow economy were also factors.”
She added that “the low booking volume early in the year led to more inventory being available throughout the year, causing prices overall to be down an average of about 5 percent to 7 percent across all cruise lines according to our measures.”
Ms. Allison-Shane also said booking activity picked up on CruiseCompete in January of this year, about 7 percent overall but even more for premium and luxury cruises, “but we are still seeing some lower prices as a result of lower sales in 2012 as the lines have more promotions.”
Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor of CruiseCritic.com, said “we’re definitely seeing everything rebounding. I see advertising is going back to appeal to first-time cruisers.”
By John Solomon
How the government's punishing of the exposure of official wrongdoing can linger for years
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
“Right Angles” explores serious subjects, such as the Islamization of the Middle East and delegitimization of Israel, with humor, candor and a twist.
Columns from Voices around the World talking about the events, people, politics and social issues that concern us wherever, and whoever, we are.
Weekly agitation from a columnist who many believed to be one of the least likely to become known as a Conservative Republican.
Happiness is attainable. Morning to night. I love to teach, deal with folks that have an issue and really wish to tackle it and write.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention