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Money Minute: A Titanic anniversary for cruise lines [Video]

April 13, 2012|By David Lazarus

That distant horn you hear is Sunday's arrival of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. So how's the cruise industry faring?

So-so.

Carnival, the world's leading cruise operator, says bookings are picking up again after January's accident involving the Costa Concordia, which killed at least 25 people. But to woo back passengers, the cruise line says it has had to cut prices -- and even then, it's rough sailing.

"The first six weeks of lost volume came during the most critical part of our year," says Chief Operating Officer Howard Frank. "Once you lose that much volume -- 9% -- during that six-week period, it's a challenge to make it up during the rest of the year."

Lost volume aside, some observers say the industry needs to do more to address passenger safety and environmental issues.

Writing in the Seattle Times, Ross A. Klein says cruise lines and regulators need to step up their game to address accidents, onboard crime and myriad problems involving protection of the seas, such as illegal dumping of oil and chemicals.

"The media tend to lose interest in cruise safety a few days after the latest accident," he writes. "But to prevent the next Costa Concordia from taking place, not to mention the routine abuses to cruise workers and the ocean ecosystem, cruise passengers must demand accountability and sweeping industrywide change. Anything less will be merely rearranging the deck chairs."

And that means it'll be a long time before the industry is able to shout that it's king of the world.

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