As they begin to set sail again, cruises lines are optimistic for a turnaround.
Nothing has demonstrated the horrors of the coronavirus contagion at the start of the pandemic like major epidemics aboard cruise ships, when vacation selfies abruptly turned into dark diaries of endless days spent confined to cabins then as the virus raged, eventually infecting thousands on board, and killing more than 100.
It was hard to imagine how ships could navigate safely again. Even after the vaccination rollout gained momentum in the United States in April, allowing most travel sectors to restart operations, cruise ships remained moored in ports, costing the industry billions of dollars in losses every month, Ceylan Yeginsu and Niraj Chokshi report for The New York. Times.
Together, Carnival, the world’s largest cruise line, and the other two largest cruise operators, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, have lost nearly $ 900 million each month during the pandemic, according to Moody’s, the agency. credit rating.
Several epidemiologists have questioned whether cruise ships, with their large capacities, proximity and forced physical proximity, could restart during the pandemic, or if they would be able to regain the trust of travelers.
But the opposite turned out to be true, said Richard D. Fain, president and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises. “The environment of the ship is no longer a disadvantage, it is an advantage because unlike anywhere else, we are able to control our environment, which eliminates the risks of a large epidemic,” he said. he declares.
After months of preparations to meet strict health and safety guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cruise lines have started welcoming passengers back for crossings to the United States, with many full itineraries throughout the summer.
Carnival said bookings for upcoming cruises increased 45% in March, April and May from the previous three months, while Royal Caribbean recently announced that all crossings from Florida in July and August were complete.
“The demand is there,” said Jaime Katz, analyst at Morningstar.
The recovery of the industry is far from guaranteed. The highly contagious Delta variant, which is causing an increase in the number of cases around the world, could hamper the industry’s recovery, especially if large epidemics occur on board. But analysts are generally optimistic about its outlook. This optimism is fueled by what could be the industry’s best asset: an unwavering and loyal customer base.
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