Travel Company Hopes You're Not Sick of Cruises, Banking on Local Ports

Just last month a Caribbean Princess cruise had to cut its trip short. It returned to Bayport Cruise Terminal in Pasadena a day early so folks from the Centers for Disease Control could investigate what caused 181 passengers and 11 crew members to get sick, a nasty little bug called norovirus.

It was the third such cruise ship outbreak this year, literally putting a stomach cramp into people's vacation plans.

So, what's making online travel company Expedia Inc. think this is prime time to launch its CruiseShipCenters brick-and-mortar travel agency next month? According to them, with two local ports, population and investment growth this market, where 11 percent of all U.S. cruise travel originates is the place to cruise.

But what about the bad buzz for the cruise industry? Lest we forget one of the shittiest cruises to every leave a Texas port, just a year ago this month, the infamous Carnival poop cruise where people were forced to crap in cans because of a mechanical failure that stopped up the toilets.

Despite those horrific setbacks involving bodily functions, one local businessman Riyaz Momin is looking to get in on that cruise ship action with his own Expedia franchise. Momin, a Houston owner of two service stations, said he was looking to get into something different after 10 years in the retail gas business. "The best part of research and development is happening in Houston," Ryaz said, pointing out biomedical companies, refineries, and a move by Exxon to locate a campus in town as examples. For him the area is a prime client base for the luxury cruise tickets he hopes to sell, rounded out by retirees hoping to see the world.

But this recent spate of sickness on cruise ships is probably just a little bad luck, and if you're planning on a trip, the data shows the odds are in your favor.  In 2013, the CDC reported seven cases of outbreaks on cruise ships, which involved just over 1,200 passengers, less than 1 percent of the millions who hop aboard for a cruise to Jamaica or Mexico.  "The CDC reports there are up to 21 million norovirus cases in any typical year on land in the United States," a spokesman for Cruise Lines International Association pointed out to Hair Balls. So, you're probably more likely to get sick from bad fish tacos than from taking a Disney cruise.

"Cruising is an incredibly safe form of travel and cruise lines are taking more precautions than ever before to ensure the safety of their guests," Matthew Eichhorst, President of Expedia CruiseShipCenters, said in a statement to Hair Balls.

A total of 181 cruises are set to sail this year from Galveston. The Port of Houston will be shipping off about two dozen cruises in 2014. 

Ryaz will open his Webster travel office in March. "I'm a strong believer in how cruise lines respond, and what steps they have taken for protections," he said. Of course he said, if you get sick there's a way to ensure you don't lose out too much.  Just like with any investment, insurance goes a long way.

"If you are insured," he said, "Everything is taken care of. That few dollars that you spend on insurance is a great way to secure your vacation."

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