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Is Cruise Lines’ Boost to Florida Economy Beginning to Sink?

May 28, 2013 - 6:00pm

Mondays Royal Caribbean cruise ship fire may have negative implications for the cruise industry, according to a recent poll published by Rasmussen Reports. The results raise concerns about the future of the cruise line industrys contribution to the Florida economy.

The poll found more than half of respondents felt "unfavorable" about traveling on a cruise ship after the blaze. Forty-five percent of respondents said they would be less likely to take a vacation on a cruise ship after the Royal Caribbean fire.

These results come after a string of cruise ship calamities, and Royal Caribbean isnt the only cruise line experiencing problems this year.

Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines is the poster child for cruise line mishaps. The cruise giant received a great deal of criticism earlier this year when an engine fire put one of its ships, the Carnival Triumph, adrift for four days in the Gulf of Mexico. Passengers lived without hot water or working toilets for days on the cruise from hell, which eventually docked in Mobile, Ala. The ship has not been in service since.

There were more problems for Carnival, though.

A month later, another one of its ships, Carnival Dream, had issues when its emergency generator died when the ship was at the Caribbean island of St. Maarten. Passengers were flown back to Florida, prematurely ending their vacations.

Thats not all. The Carnival Legend was unable to dock at a port in the Grand Cayman Islands when one of the ships Azipod propulsion units -- a part of the ship that controls its speed -- was damaged. The ship skipped its Grand Cayman stop and headed directly back to its port city of Tampa instead.

In May, Carnival announced it was lowering its earnings forecast for next year.

The announcement came after cruise analysts and travel agents said there was no need to resort to panic pricing. They contended that cruise line sales were strong. But shortly after Februarys poop cruise incident with the Carnival Triumph, the cruise giant began discounting some of its cabin prices at cheap prices -- some under $50 -- in order to boost occupancy on its ships.

With many port cities located in the Sunshine State, the cruise line industry is an important contributor to the state economy. According to Cruise Line International Association, the industry pumped nearly $6.78 billion into Floridas economy in 2012, and created over 130,000 jobs.

On a positive note for cruise lines, a lot of respondents surprisingly dont seem to be paying much attention to the recent problems plaguing their ships. According to the poll, 49 percent of Americans have been following vacation cruise ship stories at least somewhat closely, but 50 percent of Americans havent been following news stories about vacation travel ships very much.

It remains to be seen whether this years cruise ship incidents will have a significant impact on the industry, but if poll results are any indicator, it appears cruise lines are struggling to keep their heads above water to repair the negative publicity theyve already received.

The survey of 1,000 adults was conducted on May 26-27. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95 percent level of confidence.

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