When Miami-based Seabourn cruise line first signed to build the industry's first new luxury liner in six years, its executives never imagined they'd be launching it during the worst economic downturn in a generation.
When its new $250 million Seabourn Odyssey set sail last month in the Mediterranean, the 450-passenger ship offered pricing discounts of 65 percent.
Such steep discounts are rare on any new ship — but likely to continue, say industry watchers, as three additional luxury cruise liners enter the market in the next two years.
Europe-based Silversea — whose U.S. headquarters is in Fort Lauderdale — is slated to launch its new luxury ship, the 540-passenger Silversea Spirit, in December. Yachts of Seabourn — owned by Carnival Corp. — will debut two more new ships in the next two years.
With that kind of capacity increase in the making, the discounting is going to continue for some time, said Mike Driscoll of Cruise Week, a newsletter that tracks cruising trends.
Like hotels and other travel experiences, cruises have suffered during the recession, and prices on mass-market lines -- like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line -- have hovered around $100 per person per day. But the luxury market has suffered the biggest drop of any cruise sector; rates now sometimes dip below $300 per person per day, down from brochure rates as high as $900 per person per day.
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