Shiplines Get Unlikely Boost From 'Titanic'

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BOSTON -- Despite chronicling the last desperate hours of a sinking ship, the hit movie "Titanic" may be helping -- and certainly is not hurting -- cruise line bookings. In fact, cruise line officials reported impressive sales during January's Wave Week and Wave Month.

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"People who have seen it told me it would not deter them from taking a cruise. One person told me there are scenes in the movie that would encourage people to take a cruise," said a Carnival official who had not seen the film.

A Royal Caribbean spokesman who had seen "Titanic" said it calls as much attention to the "glamour and excitement of a cruise" as to the potential for disaster. He added that the public realizes the "attitudes and technology of the Titanic era" are relics of the past.

The first month of the year and, in particular, the second week in January are used as bellwethers by the cruise industry to predict bookings for the year. So far, the numbers have been very good, although officials concede they were expected to be very good even before the movie became No. 1 at the box office.

"Does 'Titanic' make any difference? Probably not," the Royal Caribbean spokesman said. "But anything that calls attention to the cruise industry is not all bad."

Royal Caribbean officials said the line experienced a one-day record number of bookings, 21,827, on Jan. 12. That day also produced a record number of reservations calls, 29,000, a 14% increase over the same day last year, officials said.

The Carnival spokesman said that line did not set any records because bookings were already so strong there was not much space left to sell. "Our pricing is up, so we're very happy," he said.

Rick James, senior vice president of Princess Cruises, said, "I would suggest that the movie certainly isn't hurting. This year, we forecast a 20% increase in phone volume. We're sitting here at 40% right now." James, who enjoyed "Titanic," said the movie is probably having "a positive spin" on the line's bookings. "It's a great historic document of what happened in 1912, and I think people are seeing it as that and as just a simple love story."

A spokesman for Holland America Line said he "loved" the film, adding that the line experienced record January phone volume. "The first Monday we had the most phone calls in the company's history in one day," he said.

Another line riding the "Waves" of surging business is Orient Lines, which said its reservations for the second week in January were up 200% over last year.

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