Carnival's impact on the public's perception of cruising
Since the engine fire on the Carnival Triumph in February, the industry has been closely monitoring the public perception of cruising and whether the industry has come under a cloud.
Did the problems experienced by a single Carnival Cruise Lines ship taint perceptions of the entire cruise experience?
There’s more evidence in Carnival Corp.’s second-quarter financial results that the perception of a problem with cruising has mostly affected Carnival’s flagship product.
Carnival said that, excluding Carnival Cruise Lines, bookings for the next three quarters are up, and at higher prices. That means that Princess, Holland America Line, Cunard Line and the rest of the Carnival stable have been more than holding their own since March.
Competitors such as Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line likewise do not appear to be struggling with lower prices, according to Wall Street analysts.
When Carnival Cruise Lines gets thrown into the mix, however, Carnival Corp. bookings are behind last year, and at lower prices. Regrettably for Carnival Corp., and perhaps the industry, if Carnival Cruise Lines isn’t healthy, the conversation about cruising suffers.
It should be noted that two Harris Interactive polls, one in March and a follow-up in May, found that perceptions about quality, trust and intent to purchase for seven cruise brands were down across the board, albeit with Carnival Cruise Lines scoring lowest.
It is hard to square the poll results with the financial results, except to say that the poll is a measure of what people say, and booking data is a measure of what they actually do.
The financial results say that, except for Carnival Cruise Lines, there’s more demand for cruises this year than last. If Carnival Cruise Lines can heal itself, however, the whole industry will undoubtedly benefit.