On the same day that Carnival Corporation was forced to lay off or furlough thousands of US-based employees across all nine of its cruise lines, the President and CEO of the company thanked the cruising public for their support.
“We also want to thank our guests for their many thoughtful notes and overall outpouring of support,” said Arnold Donald, President & CEO of Carnival Corporation, after speaking about the difficulty in having to let staff go.
“It is clear there is tremendous anticipation for a return to cruising. It’s also encouraging to note that the majority of guests affected by our schedule changes want to sail with us at a later date,” he added.
According to Donald, fewer than 38 percent of passengers booked on cancelled cruises have requested refunds to date, with the vast majority instead opting for a future cruise credit.
Donald also said that booking demand for the first half of 2021 was on-par with previous years, despite the Coronavirus outbreak.
“Our booking trends for the first half of 2021 demonstrate the resilience of our brands and the strength of our loyal recurring customer base, of which 66% are repeat cruisers,” he said.
The cruise industry has been hit particularly badly by the Coronavirus pandemic, with all cruise lines forced to suspend operations globally. It is the first time in history that passengers shipping has been impacted to this extent.
In addition, the industry has been subjected to harsh media attention regarding the safety of cruising in the post-pandemic world, much of it misleading and selective with facts.
Donald’s comments echo those made by other cruise lines, many of which have opened future cruise seasons for booking much earlier than usual due to demand.
While the Coronavirus pandemic has impacted cruise passengers in that they are now booking cruises further out than usual, it hasn’t, apparently, dampened enthusiasm for cruising itself.
It remains to be seen how that might play out when the cruise lines do finally get back to sea. Carnival has indicated that it will have a staggered resumption of operations, as has Norwegian Cruise Line.
When operations do resume, cruise lines will need to adhere to strict health and safety requirements from local governments, particularly the CDC in the US, the largest of the cruise markets.
Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have already indicated that some elements of the cruise experience, such as the buffet restaurant, may be temporarily unavailable, while the wearing of masks and social distancing may be enforced.
How passengers take to that remains to be seen, and there is certainly a risk that these measures might dampen enthusiasm for cruising in the short-term.