Cruise execs gave an upbeat assessment of the chances of resuming cruise operations in 2020 as CEOs of the world’s three largest cruise companies spoke at the Seatrade Virtual Cruise conference earlier this week.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently extended its No-Sail Order through the end of October, the heads of Royal Caribbean, Carnival Corporation and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings all expressed optimism that cruises could begin to return to North American waters this year even though they have cancelled cruises through to the beginning of December.
“Yes, we will be sailing sometime this year,” said Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald, who heads the world’s largest cruise line. “On a scale of 1 to 5, I’ll say a 4.9 in terms of optimism.”
Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Frank Del Rio said that while a return to cruising was not a race to be the first out of the gate and that the industry would be back on water until it was 100 percent safe to do so, a return was “coming soon.”
“Whether it’s December 22 or January 3, I think we’re in the ballpark,” Del Rio said. “If a number of things go our way, I think we could be sailing soon.”
Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO Richard Fain said:
“I’m not very good at putting probabilities on things, but my optimism level is very high.”
He continued: “We think we have a set of procedures that really put us in a position to say, yes, we have now come to the point where we can provide a healthy cruise.
“We’re going to start with test cruises, I think, and then a few shorter cruises and and gradually build up as we build up our experience. But I do think that’s going to start this year. I’m highly optimistic.”
As for how long it will take to get the industry back up and running, Del Rio noted that it would “take at least 60 days to stand up a vessel.”
“If you just count (the days) with your fingers … it’s literally impossible for us to operate in the month of November. Perhaps others can or will, but we’re looking at post-November as a potential start date if everything else comes along.”