9-13-13 3:15 PM EDT | Email Article

By Catey Hill


It hasn't been smooth sailing for Carnival (CCL) recently, between the infamous "poop cruise" in February, when a ship lost power and left travelers without working toilets or AC, to a Carnival-owned ship running aground in Italy and killing 32 people. But Carnival has been working to steer this PR stain in a more favorable direction -- its latest attempts being money-back guarantees and cruise deals that make the Days Inn look pricey. Plus, it's offering free cruises for travel agents.


On Sept. 12, the cruise line began offering money-back guarantees that give guests a 110% refund, complimentary flights home and a $100 shipboard credit for a future cruise "should they be dissatisfied with their cruise for any reason," according to a company statement. And currently the company is advertising rates for "as little as $35 per person per night" (for a four-day cruise of the Caribbean leaving from Miami and stopping in Key West and Cozumel). And that isn't an isolated deal: Prices for some Carnival cruises dropped an estimated 10% to 20% in the wake of the February incident, says Tom Stieghorst, the senior cruise editor for travel industry publication Travel Weekly. In addition, the cruise line announced in April that it would make enhancements on its ships -- including new fire safety technology and better emergency power capabilities -- that would cost more than $300 million. The pricing and ship improvements are, of course, a way for Carnival to entice consumers to give the cruise line another shot, industry experts say.


Also starting this week, travel agents can get a free Carnival cruise for themselves and bring up to three friends to share their staterooms. Most agents must book between Sept. 12 and 26 and travel between September 2013 and January 2014. "This is an unprecedented reach out to the agent community," says Chuck Flagg, owner of travel company The Flagg Agency near Atlanta. Or as Travel Weekly's Stieghorst, puts it: "They certainly have the agents' attention."


See also: 10 things cruises won't tell you


The move makes sense from Carnival's perspective, as nearly two in three cruises are booked through a travel agent, according to industry statistics. "Carnival is trying to get back into the good graces of the travel industry," says Eric Hrubant, president of New York-based CIRE Travel/Tzell. Indeed, Carnival in June launched a travel-agent outreach program called "Carnival Conversations," which it says was "designed to increase dialogue and strengthen ties with travel agents;" the free cruise program was born of that initiative.


To be sure, Carnival isn't the only cruise line that has run attractive promotions for agents and consumers. Hrubant points out that travel agents often get deeply discounted cruises from cruise lines, though, he hadn't seen one offer completely free cruises on this scale before. And for its part, Carnival had a program offering travel agents very deeply discounted cruises even before this free cruise promotion, says Stieghorst. What's more, other cruise lines are offering very inexpensive cruises right now as well, some for around $50 per person per night.


But are free cruises for agents and dirt cheap rates for consumers enough to remove the stench of Carnival's previous mishaps? Hrubant says that the free cruises -- assuming they offer a good experience -- may help agents feel better about recommending a Carnival cruise, and that some price-conscious consumers will be enticed by Carnival's low fares in spite of the bad press. "I'd recommend a Carnival cruise if it was right for my client," Hrubant says. "But I'd add in a disclaimer about past events." Stieghorst says that it could take six months to a year to see if Carnival's outreach fully works: Credibility "isn't gained in a day."


See also: 10 oddest cruise ship innovations

-Catey Hill; 415-439-6400; AskNewswires@dowjones.com


Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

09-13-13 1515ET

Copyright (c) 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Copyright 2014 MarketWatch
Add a Comment

News   More...

Start Premium Trial Register For Free

P F Fund Financial Data (13,000+ funds)
P F Stock Financial Data (7,000+ stocks)
P F Stock and Fund Screeners (basic)
P F Investing Articles and Market Commentary
P F Articles Archive (>30 days)
P F Discuss (dozens of stock, fund, bond, and general bulletin boards)
P F Portfolio Manager (basic)
P F Morningstar Investment Classroom
P F Access Your Portfolio Anytime, Anywhere via Your Mobile Device
P   Morningstar Fund Analyst Reports (full research on 1,700 funds, ETFs, and CEFs)
P   Morningstar Stock Analyst Reports (full research on more than 1,100 stocks)
P   Portfolio Manager (advanced with 10 X-Ray analyses, including recommendations)
P   Portfolio Monitor (monthly and on-demand personalized portfolio statements)
P   Morningstar Proprietary Stock Information (stock star ratings, buy/sell prices, economic moat ratings, and more)
P   Morningstar 5-Star Stock and Fund Favorites & Red Flags eNewsletters
P   Premium Stock and Fund Screeners (advanced with nearly infinite ways to find the best securities for you)
P   Discounts on Morningstar newsletters, books, seminars, and more

Sign-up to Morningstar

Basic Access

Articles and Videos
Morningstar video reports, articles, data, and tools. Dig into our lineup of e-newsletters and investing classroom courses outlining sensible strategies for maximizing your investments.
Morningstar Discuss
Follow the buzz on individual stocks or fund families. Plus, read the latest posts from Morningstar members and analysts.
Portfolio Manager
Track your investments and watch lists with our Portfolio Manager. Customize your view with our comprehensive stock, fund, and ETF data.

Access these features and more when you sign up for Free Membership.
Join Morningstar today. It's Free.

Unlimited Access

Analyst Research
Gather in-depth, actionable insight on over 3,700 stock and mutual funds covered by Morningstar analysts. View our mutual fund Analyst Reports favored by professionals, savvy experienced investors, and new investors researching options for retirement savings, college plans, or other investment needs.
Portfolio X-Ray®
Ensure your portfolio is positioned exactly how you want with Morningstar's X-Ray Interpreter and Stock Intersection tools. A Barron's "Best of the Web" award winner for five years running, X-Ray Interpreter goes under the hood of your portfolio to provide a useful allocation, sector, and geographic analysis. And you can discover how much of a stock you really own, individually and through mutual funds, with Stock Intersection.
Investment Picks
Find new 5-star stocks (greatly undervalued companies) to consider daily. Our 5-star stock rating is a proven winner, consistently beating benchmarks like the S&P 500. Plus, browse our Fund Analyst Picks and Stewardship Grades to find shareholder-friendly mutual funds that are poised for outperformance.
Portfolio Monitor
Get a clear view of your investments with personalized reports about your portfolio. Receive monthly statements and generate reports on-demand to help you stay on track to meet your investment goals.

Access these features and more when you sign up for Premium Membership.
Start your free 14-day trial today online
Your subscription may be tax deductible. Please contact your tax advisor.

Content Partners
Morningstar - 2013/9/13 - UPDATE: After mishaps, cruises offer nearly free rides
Name |  Ticker |  Star Rating |  Market Cap |  Stock Type |  Sector |  Industry Star Rating |  Investment Style |  Total Assets |  Category |  Top Holdings |  Top Sectors |  Symbol |  Title Star Rating |  Category |  Total Assets |  Top Holdings |  Top Sectors |  Symbol |  Name Topic |  Sector |  Key Indicators |  User Interest |  Market Cap |  Industry Name |  Ticker |  Star Rating |  Market Cap |  Stock Type |  Sector |  Industry Star Rating |  Investment Style |  Total Assets |  Category |  Top Holdings |  Top Sectors |  Symbol / Ticker |  Title Star Rating |  Category |  Total Assets |  Symbol / Ticker |  Name Title |  Date |  Author |  Collection |  Popularity |  Interest Title |  Date |  Company |  Symbol |  Interest |  Popularity Title |  Date |  Company |  Symbol |  Interest |  Popularity Title |  Date |  Author |  Collection |  Interest |  Popularity

Previous: UPDATE: After mishaps, cruises offer nearly free rides  |  Next: UPDATE: After Newtown, a bonanza for gun stocks