MIAMI — Carnival Cruise Lines reported Monday a company-record 28 percent increase in reservations for a six-week booking period, an indication that lower prices have helped the company spur demand in the sluggish Caribbean market.
The world's largest cruise brand said net individual reservations from Feb. 5 through March 18 for its 22 ships were up 28 percent compared to a year ago. Capacity increased 6 percent during the same period, which also saw the highest number of individual reservations received in any other six-week span in the cruise line's 35 years, the company said.
Nineteen of Carnival's 22 ships operate in the Bahamas and the Caribbean, where the cruise industry has cut prices and added incentives amid an overall sluggishness in bookings.
"Clearly consumers are taking note of the tremendous pricing available right now on our Caribbean voyages and the inherent quality and value of a Carnival cruise vacation," said Bob Dickinson, president and CEO of the Miami-based line.
Industry executives have said the troubles in the Caribbean are a cyclical problem based on problems in the U.S. economy, specifically the housing market and lending issues, that have cut into consumer travel spending and affected the middle market demographic — which Carnival targets.
While the new booking numbers don't mean that the Caribbean market has recovered, it does show that reservations were above capacity growth, "which is good news," said Joe Hovorka, an analyst with Raymond James & Associates.
"From an investor's standpoint, what you're going to look for is, `Does this mean prices are going to stabilize a bit in the Caribbean?'" Hovorka said.
The company attributed part of the increase to a one-day sale event on March 1 that generated the highest number of individual reservations in a single day. Carnival will offer another one-day sale event on Thursday, which will include free upgrades on minimum-priced balcony staterooms.
Starting prices include $249 for three-day Bahamas cruises from Miami, and $499 for seven-day Caribbean cruises on a per person, double occupancy basis.
Carnival Cruise Lines is part of Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise group.
No wonder I can't get another cabin for my upcoming March 31st Liberty sailing!!!!