Cruise executives last week found themselves altering their logistics and marketing strategies in response to hurricane damages to several major Caribbean ports.

Carnival Corp., for example, said it did not expect to use discounting to buck up Caribbean sailings and instead will invest resources in forms of marketing designed to stimulate general demand.

While the images of storm destruction in the Caribbean might have in times past triggered price cuts to counter consumer reluctance, Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said that is not the plan this time around.

"[In the] fourth quarter we're largely booked already, and so at this point, we're not looking to stimulate with pricing," Donald told analysts on Carnival's third-quarter earnings call.

"That's a fluid situation," Donald added, saying that if circumstances called for it later, there could be a different decision. "But at this point that has not been the case."

Carnival Corp. said that port closures and voyage disruptions from the spate of hurricanes in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean will reduce earnings by $72 million to $86 million in the fourth quarter. To put that in perspective, the company reported net income of $609 million in Q4 2016.

Since Hurricane Maria blew through the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in the beginning of September, cruise lines have been forced to revise their October itineraries in the region.

Donald cited five ports with a significant number of scheduled calls that won't be open in October: San Juan, St. Thomas, St. Maarten, Tortola and Dominica. All were hit squarely by either Hurricane Irma or Hurricane Maria.

"I would say in total maybe 7% to 9% of the ports [in the Caribbean] would have been severely impacted to the point where they were shut down for some period of time," he said.

"But the vast majority of ports are open, and there are options and alternatives and plenty of fun places for people to go."

He estimated that there are 40-plus ports in the Caribbean that are unaffected by hurricanes so far.

Of those that are damaged, Donald said that Dominica and Tortola are more significant for some of Carnival Corp.'s European brands, which visit in the winter. Of the North American brands, Carnival Cruise Line has the most ships in the region and has made itinerary revisions for 16 departures scheduled from Oct. 7 through Oct. 31.

Generally, the ships are going to western Caribbean ports such as Cozumel, Grand Cayman and Roatan, or to Freeport, Nassau and Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.

Cruise lines reposition

Other lines have also hit the reset button.

Royal Caribbean International has rescheduled the itineraries of six of its ships through Oct. 22, including its three Oasis-class ships and the Serenade of the Seas. The Adventure of the Seas is being used for humanitarian relief in Puerto Rico until its Oct. 7 cruise, which will visit the eastern Caribbean but will substitute Martinique for St. Croix.

One of the surprises has been the rapid reopening of Key West as a cruise destination. Royal's Enchantment of the Seas had planned to substitute Freeport for Key West on its Oct. 2 and 9 cruises but now has restored Key West to the itineraries.

Likewise, damage to Havana has proved less than anticipated, and Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Sky has resumed its regular weekly four-day cruise from Miami to Havana and Great Stirrup Cay.

Norwegian's other ship currently in the Caribbean, the Norwegian Escape, has altered all of its eastern Caribbean itineraries through the end of December and will instead sail to western Caribbean ports such as Cozumel and Harvest Cay.

Deployments of three MSC Cruises' ships have been impacted by hurricane. The Miami-based MSC Divina in October has dropped Phillipsburg, St. Maarten, and San Juan from its itinerary and will now visit ports in Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Mexico and the Bahamas.

The new MSC Seaside, after its debut in Miami on Dec. 23, will visit Antigua rather than St. Maarten on its seven-day cruises through March 17. And its MSC Fantasia, which caters mainly to European guests who fly to Martinique or Guadeloupe, will call in the Dominican Republic and St. Kitts instead of Tortola and Dominica.

Other lines, such as Holland America Line, migrate away from the Caribbean to Alaska and Europe during the summer but start returning ships to the region in mid-October.

HAL's first ship to return is the Koningsdam, which has an 11-day cruise from Fort Lauderdale departing Oct. 18. HAL said it will substitute stops in St. Lucia and Antigua for calls that had been scheduled in St. Maarten and St. Thomas. It has made similar changes on Caribbean cruises through year's end on the Nieuw Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Eurodam, Prinsendam and Veendam.

Big-picture marketing

Meanwhile, Arnold said Carnival Corp., while it is providing humanitarian aid in the Caribbean, remains focused on the big picture of creating more interest in cruising.

To that end, it has introduced two cruise video shows that will be available to consumers directly over the internet. The shows "Go" and "Local Eyes" will be streamed free to viewers with digital TV players such as those from Roku, Apple TV and Amazon Fire TV.

Carnival said "Go" will follow an artist exploring the world by ocean, while "Local Eyes" will tour destinations with longtime residents. Both will be produced in 10-minute segments.

Carnival's streaming service, called OceanView, will also make available cruise shows previously seen only on broadcast and cable TV, such as "Ocean Treks with Jeff Corwin" and "Good Spirits."

"Ultimately our goal is to continue to generate broad awareness of cruising as a great vacation," Donald said, and to inspire viewers to consider cruising among their vacation options.

Carnival took over a number of electronic billboards in New York's Times Square on Sept. 28, synchronizing them to promote the shows, the OceanView service and new mobile games Carnival has also developed.

On an average day, about 330,000 people enter Times Square, according to the Times Square Alliance.

Carnival says that about 190 million people have tuned into its cruise TV programming on ABC, NBC or the A&E Network. 

Since taking the top spot at Carnival Corp. in 2013, Donald has championed outreach to break down myths about cruising as a way of stimulating more demand. Social media, traditional media and advertising are all being harnessed in pursuit of that goal.

"We have many more efforts in the pipeline to increase consideration for cruise globally," Donald told analysts, adding that TV shows are on the air not only in the U.S., but the U.K. and Italy, as well.

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