SECOND IN A SERIES
On the heels of a robust third quarter earnings report with earnings rising 22%, Carnival Corporation, a major player with 97 ships and 11 brands, is looking forward to the future. Boosted by a rebounding economy that delivered higher prices during the profitable Summer cruising season and lower-than-expected fuel costs, the cruise giant beat Wall Street analyst projections. It’s full steam ahead at Royal Caribbean International too, up nearly 40%.
That’s all great news if you happen to be a shareholder in either company. It’s also great news to cruise fans; your favorite vacation is here to stay. That’s significant when we’re talking about an industry that traditionally does not do well during a recession.
One kind of scary thought from cruise line executives that seems pretty universal though: “Cruise prices are way too low”. We don’t hear any of them saying “I wish there was something I could do to get prices down” and that silence is probably very appropriate.
Compare the price of an average cruise vacation with a land vacation to just about anywhere except a campsite in your own back yard and you’ll see the great value a cruise vacation offers. I did just that recently and was surprised at the results.
I priced a 3-day getaway in Las Vegas. We have not been there for 20 years or so while we raised our kids and I thought it about time to return and give it a shot. Man, talk about sticker shock. I’m used to cruise pricing. Adding flights, meals, entertainment and lodging, I did not have to try really hard to spend a whole lot more than I would have spent on a cruise. Here is how it broke down:
I picked a non-holiday weekend, January 21st through 23rd and priced Royal Caribbean’s Monarch of the Seas in a balcony cabin. First of all, thats a horrible value right there as cruises go. Monarch is one of Royal Caribbeans older ships, built before everybody had to have a balcony so balcony accommodations are few and premium priced. $1316.14 was the price for my Junior Suite. I threw in $200 more for stuff not included like alcoholic beverages, a dinner at the ships specialty restaurant and a couple spa treatments. We’ll drive and park at the port (like many can do around the US to homeports within driving distance) and pay $45 for parking. Ashore, we’ll probably buy something so another $50 for that. Grand total $1611.14
That same weekend I booked Caesars Palace in what looked to be an equivalent room ($812) , paid for airline tickets ($614) and booked a Cirque show ($325) one night and The Lion King ($230) another night. On dining I planned on one night at a nice restaurant since I planned a specialty restaurant trip on the ship ($300) and the rest of the time fast food or cheap buffets, what a cruise might offer on a bad day ($200). I threw in $100 for souvenirs and not a penny for gambling since I didn’t add that in on the cruise. Grand total $2581
To be fair, a Cirque or Broadway show is not typical of the entertainment on most cruise ships, cruise line buffet or dining room food is probably a whole lot better than fast food or cheap buffets and that hotel room at Caesars is probably nicer than the Junior Suite on Monarch. But let’s not get too picky. I mean we can get picky if you want to. I can get a pretty good taste of that Cirque experience on Norwegian Epic at Cirque Dreams and Dinner (different company, same feel) or a short version of a Broadway production (Hairspray, Chicago: The Musical) on a number of Royal Caribbean ships. To this day I still say the best steak I ever had in my life was on Liberty of the Seas at Portofinos and that’s coming from a Kansas-raised boy who knows a fork-tender steak when he sees one.
But I think you get the idea: a cruise is a great value.
Even if prices went up 50% (they won’t) I’d still be under what a trip to Vegas would cost. Even all-inclusive land vacations don’t fare well compared to a cruise vacation …and if hurricane stops by, you’re screwed. Add in only unpacking once but visiting multiple destinations, new ships that very well may be THE destination along with the safety and security only a cruise vacation can offer and you start to get an idea of how brilliant these people are who run these cruise lines.
That’s what makes the future of cruise vacations shine brightly.