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Cruise Bookings on the Rise in 2012 Despite Costa Concordia Incident

Travelers Today       By    Katie McFadden

Updated: Jul 19, 2012 02:29 PM EDT

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Despite the deadly crash of the Costa Concordia in January, cruise lines have seen an increase in bookings in 2012.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) found that there has actually been an increase in cruise bookings this year. After polling travel agents, the group found that more than half of them reported an increase in cruise sales. Twenty-five percent of the travel agents said that the number of cruise booking was similar to last year, according to Reuters.

The travel agents also made some predications for cruise bookings. About 15 percent said they expected growth of more than 25 percent this year compared to last year. A quarter predicted an increase of 11 to 15 percent. These numbers are pretty good considering cruise lines had fears that business would drop after the Costa Concordia incident in which 32 people died in the January 13 crash.

"Particularly for the U.S. consumer market, people certainly saw the Costa Concordia as a terrible tragedy that was a very isolated event and not indicative of how the broader cruise industry operates," Christine Duffy, CLIA's president, told Reuters.

"And I think that bears out in the fact that we are seeing cruise bookings up over the same time last year. There is still a lot of consumer confidence in the cruise product."

The Costa Concordia did have some initial impact on the cruise industry during the usually busy cruise season between January and March, but cruise sales are now at a high. Uf Tukel, a co-president of iCruise.com/WMPH Vacations in Delray Beach, Florida said that some of his clients were worried about cruise safety after the crash, causing business to slow at first, but bookings are now 10 percent higher than in 2011 for his company.

"People are saying that they see what the value of a cruise vacation is," said Tukel, adding that 80 percent of cruises are booked through agents, as reported by Reuters.

Tukel has seen a particular increase in cruises to Hawaii and Alaska. Tukel said Alaska cruises are "very big this year" and he noted a 40 percent increase in Hawaiian cruise sales. He also pointed out that European cruises are going for extremely low prices, but Americans don't want to pay the high airfare costs to get there.

The travel agents believe that cruise bookings have increased because consumers are more confident in the finances as they recover from the recession and people have a strong desire to travel.

The CLIA predicts that 16 million people will take a cruise this year and there will be an increase in cruises to Brazil, China and Japan. The CLIA has already seen strong sales among river cruises, cruises on large ships, shorter three to five day cruises, and even an increase in bookings on premium and luxury cruises.

It is typical for travelers to book a cruise at least four to five months in advance, which holds true in 2012 as well. The largest cruise market is the United States, followed by the UK.

After the Costa Concordia crash, cruise ships have stepped up their safety practices, according to the CLIA. "We have already announced six new policies as a result of the operational safety review since January," said Duffy. Some of the policies include recording and providing passengers' nationality information and emergency instructions for passengers.

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