There's no smooth sailing for the travel industry these days. You would expect cruise operators to suffer the same revenue plunges as airlines and hotel chains. After all, people who have lost their jobs don't have extra cash to vacation in the Caribbean. Given the high costs of running a ship, companies lose big if their boats depart half empty. So it was a surprise to hear good news this week from Carnival ( CCL), the world's largest cruise operator. The Miami-based company reported first-quarter earnings that jumped 10% to $260 million from a year ago. Carnival benefited from falling fuel prices, but management also reduced prices and positioned the company as an affordable alternative to beach resorts. It's a winning strategy that applies to companies outside the travel industry. Here's what the company did right: Slash prices to keep customers: No matter how many people are aboard, a cruise ship incurs the same costs for fuel, staff, insurance and dock fees. So it makes sense to drop prices to fill ships. Carnival offered special deals last winter and promoted their all-inclusive meal plans as more cost-efficient for families than traditional resorts. The company booked 10% more cruises in the first quarter than a year ago. "Though pricing is down significantly, we continue to fill our ships by reaching people who might not have otherwise considered a cruise vacation," Chief Executive Officer Micky Arison said in a statement.