So how did Carnival Cruise Lines and Travelocity manage to beef up the ranks of unique visitors to their websites in January?
In addition to all of the marketplace trends impacting the entire cruise industry, Jim Berra, Carnival Cruise Lines' chief marketing officer, says it was as easy as a dash of e-marketing, search engine optimization, some social media dabbling and website enhancements which contributed to the traffic upswing.
comScore says unique visitors to CCL websites increased 79% to 2.2 million in January, compared with December.
"We are investing more heavily in online marketing," Berra says. "We moved money into display, search and site re-messaging and have overall a more aggressive plan versus 2009. We tested heavily last year and now are more focused on investing in the areas that generate the highest engagement."
The line also took steps to reign in keyword bidding on CCL trademarks by its travel agency partners.
Berra points to CCL's SEO efforts as "paying off," noting that Carnival's organic rankings on trademark and cruise/vacation queries "improved considerably in the past year."
In the past, he says, a Google search of "Caribbean cruise" wouldn't produce a CCL link in the first few pages of organic listings.
"Now, we are consistently coming up near the top," Berra says.
I just tried a Google search of "Caribbean cruise" and the first CCL link was midway down the first page, well below several Royal Caribbean links in the natural results.
Berra says Carnival's traffic numbers also benefitted by its integration of Carnival Connections, an online community, into the Funville channel on the cruise line's website. Previously, unique visitors to Carnival Connections were not accruing to Carnival.com.
"We have also instituted a number of enhancements to Carnival.com," Berra says. "Better and deeper content. Improved search functionality and research tools. This is driving higher repeat traffic as consumers find the site more engaging and easier to use, as well as download and share information with family and friends."
Travelocity, too, saw a big increase in unique visitors to its websites in January, according to comScore. Travelocity's numbers rose 38% to 10.1 million.
Travelocity spokesman Joel Frey points to an integrated TV, website and social media campaign as a factor behind the jump in website traffic.
Early in 2010, Travelocity introduced two TV spots featuring its Cure Cabin Fever sale and the Roaming Gnome and a social media campaign on Facebook.
Travelocity asked its Facebook fans to plot the Roaming Gnome's journeys and provided the choices of Banff/Whistler; Tahoe/Utah; and Aspen/Vail, Frey says.
"The social element proved successful and we recently surpassed 50,000 fans on our Facebook page," Frey says.