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Caribbean's Cruise ComebackJune 23, 2008 By: David Eisen Travel Agent
Only months ago did the cruise industry lament the state of Caribbean cruise pricing. "Lowly" and "depressing" are the words that spring to mind.
But like the changing of the seasons, some are now pointing to a change
in pricing direction for cruising’s long-favored destination.
Some say there is a change in the direction of cruising pricing in the Caribbean (Castries Harbor in St. Lucia shown)
Tim Conder, a senior analyst with Wachovia, in a May cruise pricing
survey, writes that “Caribbean pricing continues to show the most
momentum, up almost 10 percent with positive recent trends for Carnival
Cruise Lines and Royal Caribbean.” Deeper, he writes that “close-in”
pricing remains strong; furthermore, for itineraries longer than seven
days for the first quarter of 2009, pricing both for Carnival Cruise
Lines and Royal Caribbean is predicted to be up. Pricing also will be
up or flattish for cruises less than seven days in the first quarter
This year, pricing continues to shape up well for the Caribbean,
according to Conder, who writes that pricing will be up for both Q3 and
Q4 for both fewer than seven-day and more than seven-day markets.
Another analyst, Robin Farley of UBS Investment Research, shares
Conder’s optimism, writing this month in UBS’ Cruise Lines Outlook
2008-09, “We note that the Caribbean is already seeing pricing
improvement, partially due to easier comps, but also due to reduced
Conder’s and Farley’s rosy outlook is in stark contrast to what many
travel agents have been saying as recently as April. “Prices for the
Caribbean are so low that we are back to post-9/11 pricing for the
area,” said Joan McCarty, owner of Specialty Travel in St. Petersburg,
FL, at the time.
Sherry Laskin Kennedy, owner of Cruise One in Satellite Beach, FL,
countered Farley’s claim about reduced capacity pushing pricing up,
stating that availability was scarce because prices were “ridiculously
lower than usual for summer cruises.” She goes on to say that the fall
is shaping up similarly with “bargain-basement value.”
Today, agents still aren’t fully buying into the notion that pricing in
the Caribbean is climbing upward. “There are still deals everywhere,”
says Susan Reder, president of Altour Classic Cruise & Travel in
Woodland Hills, CA. “Prices are still so good.”
Henya Lish-Gebeloff, a senior leisure consultant with Largay Travel,
Inc., in Waterbury, CT, says that for the cheaper cruise lines there
are still some unbelievable bargains out there.
So who are we to believe? The front-line agents or Wall Street? Well,
both. There are always going to be deals from every line,” says Art
Sbarsky, himself a former cruise executive with Celebrity Cruises,
Crystal Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line and now a correspondent for
industry newsletter Cruise Week. So while real pricing may be inching
upward, deals still are ubiquitous.
“It's just a method of getting interest,” Sbarsky goes on. “The
question is: how many rooms are available at those discounted prices
and how steeply do prices go up after that? If the cruise lines would
have some credibility to their so-called rack rates and not have such
an insatiable desire to fill every single berth in search of the
almighty on-board dollar, they may develop some stability and actually
create a sense of scarcity.”