Another Royal Caribbean (RCL) cruise ship had to cut its trip short due to a virus outbreak on Thursday. Just a week earlier, another of its fleet had returned to shore carrying as many as 1,000 sick people—the highest number on any cruise in two decades.
These back-to-back occurrences are part of a string of ill-fated trips over the past couple of years for the liner.
Royal Caribbean isn’t the only cruise line with an image problem.
In 2012, Carnival’s (CCL) Costa Concordia sank in calm waters outside the coast of Italy, taking 32 peoples’ lives with it. A year later, an engine fire started in the Carnival Triumph leaving the ship without power, enough food and unsanitary conditions. And a 6-year-old boy drowned in a pool aboard the Carnival Victory that led travelers questioning safety and canceling bookings.
While Carnival and Royal Caribbean have safety and health issues, Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) doesn’t score very well on Cruiseline.com, where travelers rate their experiences. Rated a 3 out of 5, many complain about the poor quality of food but enjoy the nightlife. Considering cruise experiences tend to revolve around cuisine, the subpar ratings aren’t exactly conducive to selling more tickets.
Even if you’re sitting somewhere watching the snowdrifts build outside your window and dreaming about balmy weather and tropical breezes, I can’t imagine any of the above possible experiences would be very enticing.
Well, the cruise line industry is working hard behind the scenes to regain your trust and confidence as customers. If successful, 2014 year could be a very good year. In fact, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) expects the number of passengers to rise from 21.3 million to 21.7 million year-over-year.
As a result, fleets are growing in numbers and size. There are now 16 more ships than a year ago (410) and in the next two years, another 24 ships at a total cost of $8 billion will set sail to meet the demand of 37,546 more passengers.
If business begins to boom so will cruise line stocks, so it may be time to get aboard—as long consumers keep spending. An economic bust of some sort would certainly be enough to sink the industry.
Here’s how three big companies are faring: