Norwegian CEO Frank Del Rio has warned that the cruise industry is “close to devastation” and needed to get back to work immediately to stay alive.
Speaking via video link to a meeting of the Miami-Dade County Tourism and the Ports Committee on Thursday that was also attended by Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald, Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bailey, Del Rio said that the market capitalization of the three public companies has dropped by nearly $50 billion since the cruise industry was shut down in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Del Rio noted that the three major cruise companies had raised some $20 billion in order to stay afloat.
“These were all investment grade companies whose balance sheets have now been greatly diminished.And we should not take for granted that because we’re here today, we’ll always be here,” he said.
We’ve got to get back to work… all we’re asking for is the opportunity to demonstrate that we take this very, very seriously… Health and safety are buzzwords that we hear every day now, but that’s been the backbone of our industry forever,” Del Rio added.
The Norwegian Cruise LIne Holdings CEO said the cruise industry has the best record of any hospitality industry sub-sector – year after year – and that it was time to let it resume sailing.
“Enough is enough,” Del Rio said. “It’s been more than six months. We’ve learned a lot. We as an industry, we, as society have learned a lot on how to live alongside a COVID. We’re making great progress.
Healthy-Sail Panel to submit report within 10 days
Del Rio noted that together with Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings had set up an expert panel, known as the healthy-sail panel – over five months ago, with the participation of US Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former head of the US Food and Drug Administration and other former senior health officials.
“These are the best people in America … and within the next week to 10 days, we will be submitting alongside Royal Caribbean Group the results of their work. We believe that our protocols are the most robust in the industry.”
Referring to MSC’s and Costa Cruises resumption of cruise operations in Europe, Del Rio said: “It proves that it can be done, and I am a hundred percent certain that our protocols will be second to none, and that it will be safe to cruise from America.”
Norwegian CEO attacks CDC: Why can planes fly while ships can’t sail
In a furious diatribe against the CDC, Del Rio then questioned why some travel and hospitality sectors had been allowed to resume, while the cruise industry was still unable to sail from North America due to the CDC’s No-Sail Order, which runs at least through September 30.
“I want someone to tell me how it’s possible that COVID-19 transmission doesn’t occur on airplanes when you’re sitting four inches away from someone in a middle seat, yet it happens on a ship that is nearly 200,000 tons.
“It is unconscionable. What’s happened to the cruise industry. We’ve been quiet for too long….I think it’s time to raise our voices. I think it’s time to let them know that we are confident of our protocols. We are confident that we can operate safely in this COVID-19 world.”