LIMA — The stories have been lurid and everywhere in the days since a fire knocked out the primary power source for the Carnival Triumph off the coast of Mexico. Instead of soaking in the rays on the ship’s deck, vacation-goers sought refuge from the stench of overflowing human waste, vomit and searing heat.
Despite the public relations nightmare for Carnival and the cruise industry in general, travel professionals say the nearly week-long saga has had little impact on what has become big business.
“I have not had any feedback in any kind of a negative way. I would have to say as of right now it’s had no impact,” said Chris Seddelmeyer, owner of Travel Concepts. “I think that it’s such an isolated incident that when it does happen it’s going to get the headlines. People have short-term memories, and nine times out of 10 it’s not going to convince them to change their plans.”
Kimberly Schwind, spokeswoman for AAA Ohio Auto Club, said consumers across their network actually have been booking cruises as the Triumph saga played out.
“I’ve spoken with a number of our travel professionals here, and they have not noticed anything with people cancelling or not wanting to book cruises. In fact, one agent I talked with said she booked five cruises this week,” Schwind said. “We really still see people booking cruises. What we’ve noticed is that people really seem to recognize this is a rare situation and something that’s out of the norm. People that want to cruise are still going to cruise.”
According to data from AAA, the popularity of cruising has taken off in the past three decades. In 1980, nearly 1.8 million cruise passengers sailed worldwide. That number soared to nearly 20 million by 2011, according to Cruise Lines International Association.
A week’s worth of bad press isn’t enough to scare away some local cruisers.
“I cruised on the Carnival Legend last year and loved every minute of it. The crew was marvelous and did everything they could to make the vacation enjoyable,” Karrie Ziegenbusch Matthews said in a post on The Lima News' Facebook page. “Would I go again? Absolutely!! No matter how your travel, ship, air, the rails or vehicle, unfortunate things happen even after all safety precautions have taken place. I do feel for both the passengers and crew.”
Seddelmeyer said despite the occasional highly visible incident, cruising is among the safest means of travel and provides great value.
“It’s still an excellent way to take a vacation. You’re paying one price basically that’s going to include your lodging plus you’re going to be seeing several different places without having to pack and unpack,” Seddelmeyer said. “Your meals are included; most of your entertainment on board is included. It’s still a very good way to travel, a great way to relax and still see a lot of different destinations. It’s still seems to be one of the most popular vacations, in my experience.”