CARNIVAL CRUISE LINES has embarked on a strategy of decreasing its direct sales this year, parent company chief Micky Arison said during Carnival Corp.'s second-quarter earnings call. Arison said that once "two of Carnival's senior sales and marketing executives, who were clearly the most aggressive in growing Carnival Cruise Lines' [Personal Vacation Planner program] and direct business, left the company," its new executive team changed strategy. Arison was making a veiled reference to Bob Becker, now a senior vice president at Norwegian Cruise Line, and Vicki Freed, now in the top sales position at Royal Caribbean International, both of whom left Carnival early this year. Arison added that Carnival's new president and CEO Gerald Cahill decided to sell more cruises through the travel agent channel, which has resulted in decreased general and administrative expenses and improved yields.
CARNIVAL CORP. overcame a 67% increase in fuel costs to post a $390 million profit in the second quarter, exactly what the company earned in the same quarter of 2007. Citing higher-than-expected ticket revenue from its North American brands, strong close-in bookings and lower-than-expected cruise costs excluding fuel, Carnival beat the second-quarter guidance it had provided in March. COO Howard Frank said on an earnings conference call with analysts that North American bookings were not as strong as last year, which could be due to the soft economy and Carnival's brands' higher price points, but that "the absolute volume is sufficient to maintain higher prices." Onboard spending was down, Arison said: "It's clear that our guests to some degree are tightening their belt. But fortunately they continue to cruise and book at very acceptable levels."
ROYAL CARIBBEAN INTERNATIONAL rolled out a few new "neighborhoods" of the Oasis of the Seas, the 5,400-passenger cruise ship formerly code-named Genesis. Among its promised features: an amphitheater with ocean views; duplex loft cabins; and a neighborhood called the Boardwalk, which will have carnival games, a carousel, tattoo parlor (offering temporary tattoos), family style restaurants and a zip line suspended nine decks above it. The Boardwalk will end at the the AquaTheater ampitheater, which will offer water shows at night and swimming and scuba lessons during the day. There will be 37 accommodation categories on the ship, including 28 duplex loft suites boasting 18-foot, floor-to-ceiling windows.
ROYAL CARIBBEAN said the Oasis would sail seven-day eastern and western Caribbean itineraries when it launches in December 2009, and a new cruise port in Falmouth, Jamaica, will be purpose-built for the 220,000-gross-ton ship. The port, about midway between Ocho Rios and Montego Bay, will offer preferential berthing rights to Royal Caribbean ships but will be open to other cruise lines. The Oasis will operate roundtrip from its Port Everglades homeport and will call in St. Thomas; St. Maarten; and Nassau, Bahamas, in its Eastern Caribbean itinerary. It will call at Royal Caribbean's private beach in Haiti; Falmouth; and Cozumel, Mexico, on the Western Caribbean itinerary.
NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE rolled out details about the nightlife on the F3 class of ships, the first of which is scheduled to begin sailing in 2010. The offerings will include cruising's first ice bar as well as two adults-only facilities; several of the spots will have cover charges. The ice bar, to be named Cool, will be a "frozen vault full of iced vodka, like a giant ice cube," said CEO Colin Veitch, and the bar's temperature will never rise above 17 degrees. An entry fee will cover a drink and the use of gloves, hat and a fur coat.
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