Carnival joins list of cruise firms planning capacity cuts

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Carnival Corp. is the latest cruise company planning to cut deployment in Alaska in 2010 because of the state's $50 cruise passenger head tax.

During an earnings conference call last week, Micky Arison, chairman of Carnival Corp., parent of Carnival, Holland America and Princess cruise lines, said the head tax, approved by Alaskans in a referendum in 2006, "is having a very significant impact on tourism to Alaska."

In light of the worldwide economic downturn, the $50 add to the price tag of an Alaska cruise is a "significant price" for passengers to pay in the current price-sensitive environment, Arison said.

He hinted that further reductions in Alaska were possible in 2011 if business did not improve.

Although Arison did not say which ships would be affected, published reports have spilled the beans on at least a couple of planned cuts.

The Anchorage Daily News reported that Holland America plans to turn its seven-day Vancouver-to-Seward cruise into a 14-day roundtrip that will not allow time in port for passengers to take an extended land tour.

That equates to a loss of 15,000 visitors to South-central Alaska, compared with 2009 capacity.

The paper also reported that Princess in 2010 would cancel one of its four Gulf of Alaska itineraries aboard the Star Princess. (Carnival confirmed the deployment reductions March 31.)

Carnival already announced that the Carnival Spirit would be based in Seattle in 2010, instead of Whittier and Vancouver, where it is homeported this year.

Blaming the $50 head tax, Carnival competitor Royal Caribbean earlier announced it was pulling its Serenade of the Seas from its Alaska program in 2010 for a loss of 42,000 passengers.

The changes announced thus far mean that roughly 100,000 fewer cruise passengers will visit South-central Alaska in 2010, a 25% reduction in cruise passengers.

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