Breaking: Carnival booking record signals improving economy with eye on value

Carnival Cruise Lines set a one-week reservations record booking 165,308 guests between Feb. 7-13, 2011, topping the previous one-week reservations record set nearly four years ago. Recent moves made by the line suggest an improving economy but cautious consumers are still seeking value.

“Clearly, consumers are taking advantage of the incredible value that a Carnival cruise provides, not only in terms of our fun on-board experience but also our many convenient close-to-home departure points and wide variety of short itineraries,” Cahill said. “This activity reaffirms that even in today’s economic climate, consumers still want to have fun and view their vacations as an important part of their lives,” he added.

Carnival did not just stumble in to a record-breaking week. They have been working on it for quite some time.Kicking off the year in a socially engaging way, Carnival threw its signature “Fun” hat in the ring as official confetti sponsor of the Times Square New Years Eve 2011 celebration. The sponsorship included multiple opportunities for the line to infuse its version of fun into the festivities including a free-cruise giveaway.

Indeed, Carnival took the lead steering the cruise industry through uncharted social waters introducing their “Hey America, DidJa Ever?” campaign where the line is collecting the “Top 100 Firsts” from over 420,000 Facebook fans. Fans are encouraged to tighten up relationships by sharing experiences through photos and videos aimed to create events and memories. Carnival will help make those dreams come true for fans giving away anything from cruise vacations for four to appearing on stage with a favorite band.

Value is the name of the game when it comes to cruise pricing and Carnival’s Early Saver Fare, guaranteed by the line to be the lowest available, has become wildly popular. Ranking high on top cruise value lists, the fare is much like a restricted air fare. The Early Saver fare requires a non-refundable deposit and no changes can be made without penalty. But the trade-off is the best value offered by the line, even beating past-guest, military and senior rates.

The big question: Why don’t other lines offer a similar program?

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Free cruise contest roundup

When it comes to travel values, cruise vacations rate high. Even with recent and predicted price increases as the economy improves, the semi all-inclusive nature of a cruise is pretty hard to beat. That’s good but free is better. Let’s take a look at what’s out there in the way of contests you can enter to win a fabulous cruise vacation.

Budget Travel is looking for the Worlds Best Cruiser and wants to send them on a free cruise. Have you taken more cruises than you can count? Do you live and breathe cruise vacations as a way of life? This one might be for you. Send your photos, videos and tips (the sort of thing a Worlds Best Cruiser would have) to The winner will be determined by an on line reader poll starting May 3, will win a free cruise and be featured on and in the magazine’s December/January 2012 issue.

Carnival Cruise Lines is giving away a free cruise every month during their Didja Ever? promotion/way of life campaign that kicked off on New Years Eve when they dropped a ton of dream confetti on New York’s Times Square. As if a free cruise was not enough, they are also offering Facebook friends some other options like voting “I wanna do it” on Pick A Place On The Map And Go, Climb One Of The World’s Seven Summits or Go On Tour With A Band. The big question is “What have you always wanted to do?”Princess Cruises has The Travel Bucket List Contest that is looking for your most memorable travel experience. You can enter with a video or an essay with photos. Submit your story by February 7th for a chance to win a Princess Cruises dream vacation for you and one very lucky travel companion, including roundtrip airfare. Find out more when you visit and Like their Facebook page between now and February 7th (hurry up).

Holland America Line has a writing contest too. Sounds kind of stuffy but the end result is a free cruise so it makes the list. On their Transatlantic Writing Contest, they invite you to tell us about your own Holland America transatlantic crossing or that of a friend or relative who sailed an unforgettable Holland America transatlantic voyage. We are seeking compelling stories that are humorous, adventurous or heart-warming. The entrant whose story earns the most accolades from a panel of judges for its emotional impact, originality and creativity will win passage for two on a 9-day crossing from New York, NY to Rotterdam, The Netherlands, departing July 12, 2011, aboard the ms Rotterdam.

Flickr photo by pmarkham