Sheehan: Want a deal? Book now, this is as good as it will get.


SAINT NAZAIRE, France – Thinking of booking one of the super deals on cruises that have been floating around the marketplace this year? You might want to act sooner rather than later. Yet another cruise line CEO is saying cruise prices have bottomed and may be heading up.

“The pricing has started to show limited signs of moving in the right direction,” says Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Kevin Sheehan. “We think we’ve seen the market bottom.”

Speaking with a small group of cruise writers in France this weekend during ceremonies to mark the “float out” of the line’s much-awaited new ship, the Norwegian Epic, Sheehan and other NCL executives said they saw growing signs the worst days of the current downturn are over.

“We haven’t seen any deterioration (in pricing) in the last couple months,” Sheehan says.

Just last month, executives at industry giant Carnival also noted prices may finally have bottomed.

“We have started tweaking pricing on a variety of brands,” Carnival Corp. CEO Micky Arison told Wall Street analysts during a conference call to discuss second quarter earnings. “Pricing is being taken up.”

Cruise lines began dropping prices drastically late last year in reaction to a sharp slowdown in bookings brought on by the economic crisis, and fares for many itineraries have remained unusually low through this spring and summer. NCL’s Sheehan notes that pricing in Alaska, in particular, has dropped substantially for the current summer.

Carnival – the parent company of more than half a dozen brands including Carnival, Holland America, Princess Cruises and Cunard — said in its June conference call that the prices it’s getting for cruises departing in the third quarter still are substantially below the level of a year ago. Prices for fourth quarter cruises are down year-over-year, too. But Carnival said there definitely has been an improvement in pricing off the lows as demand for cruises returns.