Following last weekend's Costa Concordia disaster, shares in Carnival Corp., which owns the doomed Italian cruise ship, dropped a sharp 17 percent. Competitor Royal Caribbean's stock fell too. The fallout from the tragedy, which left at least 11 people dead, worsened with the release of a recording in which the captain refused to return to his sinking ship and lead the evacuation (he now claims he "tripped and fell" into a lifeboat). Will the deadly wreck scare away passengers and damage the entire cruise industry?
Cruise lines are in trouble: The timing couldn't be worse for the cruise industry, says Brad Tuttle at TIME. The period between January and March is referred to as "Wave Season" because it's the busiest time of year for cruise bookings. With passengers spooked by the "Concordia horror," "the waves may be mild" this year. Cruise lines should brace for weak sales, and be prepared to offer "super cheap cruise deals" to compensate.
"Italy cruise disaster: A disaster for the entire cruise industry"
Actually, they will recover swiftly: Sure, we're "collectively shocked" by the accident, Heidi Sarna, co-author of Frommer's cruise guidebooks, tells the Chicago Tribune. But people will still take cruises, just as they continue to fly after traumatic airplane crashes. Cruise ships are an incredibly safe mode of travel. Lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean will have to launch a PR campaign to reassure the public again, but "in the long run, I don't think the Costa accident will hurt the cruise industry."
"Costa Concordia 'a tragic accident, but it is a rare occurrence'"
But it's unlikely to bounce back entirely: Anecdotal evidence, such as online comments on Carnival Cruise Lines' Facebook page, indicates that fans will keep taking cruises, says Hugo Martin at the Los Angeles Times, and there have been no mass cancellations. But while existing business will remain solid, the industry should expect a slowdown in the steady growth of the last several years. As safety concerns over new "mega ships" rise, they will put a damper on what has been "smooth sailing and a bright future" for the industry.
"Safety concerns may slow cruise industry's growth"