Cruise package sales expected to sink


, Last Updated: 2:00 PM ET

VANCOUVER -- Travel agents are bracing for a slow down in cruise package sales following the capsizing of the luxury cruise ship Costa Concordia off the coast of Italy on Friday that killed six people. Another 29 people remain missing.

“This type of accident on this type of scale, I haven’t really seen, maybe ever,” said travel agent and commentator Claire Newell, who has run Jubilee Tours and Travel for 18 years.

“I’ve seen fires onboard, I’ve seen hard docking, but not human error. In this day and age, in 2012, this type of thing should not be happening.”

Newell says January and February are typically the months when a large portion of cruise ship bookings are made, so she expects to see a drop in sales over the next few weeks, particularly amongst those who may already have been nervous about going on a cruise.

“The initial reaction is always that knee-jerk fear and people maybe hesitate for a week or two after,” said Newell.

There is no need for the public to fear cruise ships because of this recent accident, said Greg Wirtz, president of the North West and Canada Cruise Association.

“This industry is as safe as it’s ever been,” he said. “Sixteen million passengers sailed on our cruise line vessels throughout the world last year, virtually accident free.”

But he added it is important for the industry to learn what went wrong off the coast of Italy, especially with the extensive safety policies in place on the ship and its advanced safety technologies.

“I can only imagine the series of mistakes that could have led to something like this... This should never have happened,” he said.

Even though the shares of Carnival Corp., which owns the capsized ship through an Italian subsidiary, fell 16% on the London Stock Exchange on Monday, Newell expects public confidence in cruising to return once the investigation is complete. She said a special sale on cruise ship tickets is one proven way to lure wary passengers back onboard.

“In the long run, having seen this type of thing in the past, people quickly get over it and realize it’s a one-off,” said Newell.