Beyond the much-publicized case of Jennifer Ellis-Seitz, who jumped off the Norwegian Pearl last week in what now appears to be a suicide, it’s been a bad-news kinda month for cruise lines.

Earlier this week, two cruise ship passengers were allegedly robbed of $200, their hand bags, credit cards and passports in Antigua. The passengers, Ian and Yvonne Percival, were traveling aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas. It’s the second incident of its kind in two weeks, according to the Antigua Sun.

Then there was the case of four passengers who tried to smuggle more than £1.7m worth of cocaine into Southampton on a cruise liner. Earlier this month, they pleaded guilty to bringing the drugs onboard P&O’s Arcadia after a Caribbean cruise this fall.

The bad-news month started with the rescue of 89 passengers from an Argentine cruise ship which ran aground off the Antarctic coast. Passengers from the Panama-registered ship, the Ushuaia, were taken to a Chilean military base in Antarctica. The cruise ship became stuck in Wilhelmina Bay, a peninsula that reaches towards the southern tip of South America, according to news reports.

This couldn’t have come at a worse time for the beleaguered cruise industry. It’s facing its toughest “wave season” — the period between early January and March when most cruises are booked — in a generation. Will this bad news keep their customers away?

Not as much as a bad economy. Unless the cruise industry aggressively discounts its product and permanently eliminates its unfair fuel surcharges, we could see several cruise lines going under in 2009.

Now that would be bad news.