Book a Carnival Cruise Now?

| Monday, 18 Feb. 2013

You aren't likely to find a better bargain than what we see right now

I have been getting a number of media inquiries as to whether the recent incident will affect cruise prices.

My answer is that I can only guess, and that guess is "yes, but not for long." There is a saying in the cruise industry that it is a lot harder to raise prices than to drop them. The old rationale was that cruise lines would do anything to fill a cruise ship, including dropping prices as far as they must go. But recently there has come a point where the lines have decided they would rather keep prices higher and break even, than reduce prices and break even. That way when the economy recovers, they won't have to fight the pricing battle.

Since the latest recession started in 2008 the cruise industry has been struggling to weather the worst and emerge triumphant when we get a recovery. But no one ever expected this downturn to last so long - and unfortunately no one in Washington seems to be able to do anything to fix it.

Along with the bad economy, the cruise lines just haven't been able to catch a break. Every time things appear to be getting demonstrably better something bad has happened.

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Will Cruise Prices Go Down?

Most experts have been rightfully noting that bad publicity incidents only have a short-term effect on cruise prices. This is largely because even though only 20% of Americans have ever even tried a cruise, the vast majority of those people choose to cruise again, and some become avid cruise enthusiasts. This means there is a large retinue of cruise enthusiasts who are hoping prices will drop this week so they can grab a bargain, and if it happens those cruises will be sold very quickly.

So here is the stark reality; the cruise industry has been through this before and they know the game, and this time I don't think they are going to play it. Prices will only go down if they see a significant drop in cruise demand after this recent incident leaves the news cycle.

Where Are Cruise Prices Now?

First of all - let's ask something important; during this engine failure which staterooms were affected most negatively? The cheap inside staterooms on the lower decks that sell for $399 per person for a seven day cruise were the ones that endured the worst effects. Gravity made the waste water flow downhill, and it was a longer walk to the upper decks for fresh air and food. The vast majority of people you saw "camping" on the top open deck came from those cheap cabins on the lower decks, especially the inside stateroom with no ventilation.

So - if you want to book an inside cabin for a Caribbean cruise you can get on many cruises for under $400 per person, but I really recommend you go with a balcony cabin in the range of $650 per person. Are these bargain prices? The answer is "no." - These are the same prices we have been seeing for months now. But what is noticeable is that most of the ships selling in this price range are Carnival ships, So right now Carnival is your best bet if you want a bargain.

Would I take a Carnival cruise right now?

You bet I would. I heard one avid cruiser on CNN sum it up like this, "I can't wait to get back on Triumph, because I know they will be trying harder than ever to please me as a guest." And although it seems as if Carnival has been at the heart of many of these recent incidents, it is also because they carry far more passengers than other cruise lines. Therefore, Carnival is statistically the line where more bad things are likely to happen.

Triumph will be out of action for 14 cruises (about 10 weeks), so you might as well apply that same principle to one of the other Carnival ships in service right now. You can be sure the crew members on all Carnival ships are trying harder this week.

But if you would prefer to avoid Carnival then you can go on Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Dawn or Norwegian Sun leaving from Tampa for $399 (inside) or $679 (balcony) per person. This is about the same price as a Carnival cruise and both lines are good.

One of the best bargains I see right now is Carnival Pride leaving from Baltimore on seven-night cruises going to Port Canaveral, Nassau and Freeport (both in the Bahamas). That ship has balcony staterooms selling for as little as $549 per person. Even better, that model of ship is one of the "right-sized" ships (as I call them) which have all the amenities of the newer mega-ships, but are actually smaller and less crowded. For example, Carnival Triumph, built in 1999, is 101,000 gross tons and has 3100 passenger berths, while the average newer carnival ships are 110,000-tons or more. But Carnival Pride was built in 2002 and it is only 88,000-tons (smaller is better) and it only carries 2124 passengers.

Compare that to Grandeur of the Seas, a recently renovated ship from Royal Caribbean. On the same 7-day itinerary the price for an inside stateroom is $439, but balcony cabins are priced at $1299 per person. There is a third ship sailing from Baltimore; Enchantment of the Seas. This is an older ship built in 1997, similar to Grandeur but without the upgrades. This would be my last pick out of Baltimore.

Of all the Carnival Ships, it is important to note that some of them have already adopted a new entertainment format onboard called FunShip 2.0. This features a number of different eateries such as Guy Fieri's Burger Joint and the Blue Iguana Cantina, and has entertainment features like the Punchliner Comedy Club and Hasbro Game Shows for families. These ships tend to have more staterooms per square meter, but are also more "neighborhood" oriented as opposed to having single purpose rooms that end up dark several hours of most days. So far FunShip 2.0 has only been implemented on Carnival Breeze, Carnival Conquest, Carnival Liberty and Carnival Conquest. Carnival Destiny is slated to get a $155-million upgrade that will take almost two months to complete starting this week. It will emerge in April as "Carnival Sunshine," a fully re-branded like-new ship created out of an existing ship.

Are you aware of any Carnival cruise bargains? Tell us here: Carnival Cruise Forum

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