WILKES-BARRE – Despite recent problems on large cruise ships, seasoned travelers Friday said it's full steam ahead with their plans.
And area travel agency owners said they don't expect a drop-off in cruise bookings – in fact, they said cruising is one of the safest ways to travel.
Earlier this week the Carnival Triumph lost propulsion power after an engine room fire. A year ago, the Costa Concordia disaster occurred when the ship rolled on its side, and earlier this week a lifeboat accident occurred aboard a Thomson Cruises ship, killing five crew members.
Anna Wadas and her husband Mark, of Wilkes-Barre, have been on six cruises, and they plan to take more.
You never know what can happen, she said. It worries me, but it's no different than getting on an airplane.
Carnival is the Wadas' favorite cruise line. They have many friends who have been on far more cruises, and they all feel the same, Anna Wadas said.
We're planning our next one for 2014 to the Bahamas, she said. I can understand the fear, but the service on these ships and the care they provide is outstanding.
Marilyn Stanks, owner of Avenue Travel in Kingston, said cruise lines have a solid safety record, incurring trouble only a very small percentage of the time.
I was talking to a customer (Thursday) who is planning a cruise with friends, said Stanks. She said one of her friends brought up looking for another alternative, such as flying to a destination and an all-inclusive package.
Stanks said when incidents are publicized so much, some people do get doubtful. But I really don't see cruise business falling off, she said. Most people look at these events as infrequent and unique situations.
If you compare the number of ships at sea to the number of cruise liner failings, the percentage is minute.
Anna Wadas said she and her husband love to travel to the Caribbean and sometimes they encounter bad weather.
The captains we've had always control their ships, she said. We were on a cruise right before Superstorm Sandy hit and we had to turn around and head home. But we're not afraid to go on a cruise; in fact, we can't wait for the next one.
She said to not go would be like staying away from New York City because you fear a terrorist attack.
Gary Peters and his wife live in Edwardsville. They have been on seven cruises and intend to book more. They've cruised to Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.
When you realize how many cruises go out every day, there are a small amount of incidents, Peters said. First-time cruisers might have second thoughts, but not seasoned travelers. We've never been on a bad cruise.
Peters said he's certain investigators will find out what happened on these ships and that information will be shared with all cruise lines. It will result in an overall improvement in each company, he said.
Barry Tenenbaum has owned Tenenbaum's Travel in Kingston for 40 years. He expects a slight decrease in sales initially, he said, but over time, the bookings will increase. Publicity, good or bad, is publicity – and that usually increases sales, he said.
The Carnival line and other lines will learn from this latest experience and improve service, Tenenbaum said.
He said cruises are very popular. Thirty years ago, cruise lines decided to build billion-dollar ships based on the 10 percent of Americans who then sailed, he said. More recently, only 20 percent of Americans have sailed, leaving a huge market to appeal to, he said.
Tenenbaum recently received a number of calls from people asking if rates went down, he said. He hasn't seen any reductions so far, he said, but that could change in the short term following these incidents.
Jim Lardear, director of public and government relations for AAA Travel in Wilmington, Del., said AAA nationally has not been inundated with calls from concerned travelers regarding cruise bookings. I'm not aware of anyone calling to cancel a cruise, he said.
About 11 million people per year travel on cruises, Lardear said. AAA books about 600,000 cruise passengers per year, he said. Based on those numbers, cruise ships remain one of the safest vacations available, he said.
Travelers need to understand the importance of travelers' insurance, said Lardear, and the recent incidents should serve as a reminder of how important that is.