YOUR MONEY-If you have the stomach for a cruise, it's a discount carnival

Fri Mar 8, 2013 3:36pm EST
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By Mitch Lipka

NEW YORK, March 8 (Reuters) - In the wake of the terrible tale of the stricken Carnival Triumph - and a Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd ship hit with norovirus in the news Friday - the cruise industry is delivering deep discounts and lots of extras. Potential travelers, with images of crippled ships and sickened passengers fresh in their minds, have a few things to consider before they jump at deals.

But even some of those who were on the ill-fated Triumph are having a hard time not cashing in. Travel agent and cruise blogger Jill Noble, 43, was aboard the Triumph and had an awful time. That didn't stop her from taking the free cruise and $500 credit she got for her ordeal and applying it toward a cruise she had previously booked. She also renegotiated the overall price based on a huge fare discount in Carnival's latest sale, which she says had price drops of up to $400 per cabin when the norm in a sale is $200-$250.

Noble now has four upgraded cabins for her extended family for a cruise from Galveston, Texas, to Belize and Mexico in June.

"It was awful," she says. "But I'm ready to get back on the horse."

Much of the discounting right now actually has little to do with distressing headlines. It is "wave season," as it is known in the industry, a time from January through March when sales and incentives are plentiful. There is also increased competition among cruise companies. That's because of the addition of more than a dozen new ships in 2012, giving them nearly 18,000 more beds to fill, according to the Cruise Lines International Association, a trade group.

While it's too soon to say whether the image of overflowing toilets while stranded at sea will, by itself, drive down prices, history does indicate that cruise lines counter bad publicity with good deals. "These type of incidents do give a lot of people pause, and this just sort of accelerates some of the values we were already anticipating," says Gabe Saglie, senior editor for the deal site