When times get tough, the tough go … cruising?
Well, that’s the consensus of the top executives at Carnival Cruises, who reported today that the company recently had its best week ever.
For the period starting February 23 and ending March 1, Carnival recorded more net bookings than at any time in its 37-year history.
While other sectors of the travel industry such as hotels and airlines are seeing drops in business, Carnival’s net bookings were up 10 percent between mid January and the end of February, compared to the same period last year.
Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill attributes the company’s strong performance to its aggressive marketing efforts and popular discount promotions. Carnival has been blanketing the airwaves, Internet and print publications with advertising extolling the virtues of a “Fun Ship” vacation.
Southern California-based Princess Cruises is experiencing a similar surge in demand. Princess reported a six percent increase in bookings yesterday for the first two months of 2009, which included one record-breaking day in January,
Jan Swartz, an executive vice president at Princess, credited the company’s online tools, promotional offers, direct mail program and network of travel agents for securing the record number of bookings.
January through March is “wave season” in the cruise industry, the high-volume booking period when cruise lines regularly accumulate 40 percent of their yearly inventory.
The record-setting number of bookings seems to confirm some analysts’ instincts that despite the recession, people are still traveling, albeit more carefully than before.
Cruise lines seem to have successfully convinced choosy travelers that the open sea is the ideal place to spend their hard-earned—and increasingly scarce—dollars.
“The hands-down best vacation value this year is cruises,” said Jane Wooldridge, travel editor for the Miami Herald. “I am seeing incredible fares, especially if you’re talking about a scenario where children are sailing free or discounted. And lots of cruises are being offered for as little as $500 for an entire week.”
By Karen Elowitt and Dara Bramson for PeterGreenberg.com.
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