The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has yet to enter into a serious discussion with the North American cruise industry on a resumption of cruising, Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said Friday during a conference call after publication of its second quarter earnings.
Asked whether discussions with the CDC were along similar lines to the guidance already issued by the European Union, Donald said that conversations with the CDC were currently revolved around handling of ships with crew onboard. “We have not actually gotten to the point of serious resumption of cruise discussions with the CDC but, of course, that’s coming.”
Carnival CEO said the entire industry was working collectively on a resumption of cruising and that “no one wants to compete on health or safety.” He said any return to sailing would be dependent on a number of factors – for example the alignment of port cities and destination cities – and not just on the CDC decision on when to lift its no-sail order currently running until July 24.
The most important thing however he said would be when society is willing to resume social gatherings.
“What you’re seeing, for example, in Germany, where community spread [of COVID-19] has become relatively low on an incident level basis, society is willing to socially gather, and that lays the foundation for us to be able to do things.
The fact that today there is great information about the virus, better understanding of what to do or what not to do was making it possible to begin to sailing again with confidence. However, he added, “we’re not quite at that point, obviously, here in the US, where there still surges in different portions of the country in terms of incidents and so on. But we’re working on it along with the rest of the industry.”
Carnival CEO – 30 days to resume cruising after lifting of no-sail order
With regard to how long it would take Carnival to begin to resume operations – currently suspended through the end of September – once the CDC lifts its no-sail order, Donald said that the first ships could be back sailing within 30 days.
Explaining the process involved, he added that there are many dynamics and countries involved in getting ships back sailing again and that in the meantime ships are being maintained in ‘warm lay-up’ with only minimum crew on board. The main factor would therefore be getting crew back, he said.
“Depending on the circumstances and what the protocols are that could be a short or longer period of time if we’re quarantining crew for a period of time before they go back on board, which could be the case… But I would say in a lot of different scenarios, within 30 days of knowing when we could cruise we would be in a position to be prepared to,” Donald said.
Italy next to allow cruise lines to operate
Carnival, the world’s biggest cruise company, has several brands operating from Europe. On Thursday, its German subsidiary AIDA Cruises announced that it would return to sail in August and Donald said Italy seems to be closest to resuming cruises and the company was in “very active dialog” with authorities there.
Having national brands in Carnival’s portfolio was an asset that would help it start to generate bookings and cash flow as various nations began to permit cruising to resume – but most likely only to their own nationals at first, Donald explained .
“As nations reintroduce social gathering, including cruise, they are most likely initially to restrict reactivation to their own residents exclusively,” he said. “With brands like AIDA, that is roughly 95% German source; P&O UK, which is 98% British source; Costa Europe, which is nearly 80% kind of European source; P&O Australia, which is more than in the 99% Australian and New Zealand source; and Carnival Cruise Line, which is 92% US source, we are very well positioned.”