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Cruise holidays were on the rise in 2019, reporting growth year-on-year more holidaymakers turned their attention to the sea. However, the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic has left a devastating mark on the industry.
Although the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) lifted its “no sail” ban at the end of October, it is working towards a phased resumption, with cruises unlikely to be deemed safe enough to go ahead until 2021.
What’s more, in the UK, the Department for Transport (DfT) has said that “now is not the right time” for cruises to return to sailing.
The UK Government has said that it wants to support the industry through its new Travel Task Force and prepare for “a phased risk-based approach resuming cruise operations”.
It is not yet clear when exactly cruises will be given the thumbs up to restart.
As a result, big-name cruise lines have reported a drastic drop in earnings.
This includes both revenues from customers purchasing holidays and in onboard spending.
According to the latest figures from individual company reports and Statista, Norwegian Cruise Line has seen a dramatic loss of 75 percent from both of these revenue sources.
“The new Framework for Conditional Sailing Order issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a step in the right direction on the path to the safer and healthier resumption of cruising in the U.S., reinforcing our existing rigorous commitment to health and safety.
“We will continue to collaborate with the CDC on next steps to relaunch operations with a shared goal of protecting the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.
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“While we have a long road of recovery ahead of us, we are encouraged by the continued demand for future cruise vacations, especially from our loyal past guests, across all three of our brands.”
Norwegian Cruise Line has set out a preliminary restart date of January 2021.
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean Group, which includes subsidiaries Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara Cruises and Silversea Cruises, saw a loss of 74 percent.
“This quarter we identified immaterial credits and refunds on bookings that were previously incorrectly recognised as cancellation revenue and reversed those revenues,” said Rob Zeiger, a Royal Caribbean spokesman.
Royal Caribbean has set out a preliminary restart date of January 2021.
In a similar trend, Carnival Corporation also saw losses of around 65 percent amid the coronavirus chaos.
The cruise line has hoped of resuming sailings from February 2021.
A report from Statista states that the global cruise line industry will suffer a 71.6 percent year-on-year decrease in 2020 revenue to reach $7.79 billion (£5.84 billion).
Although some cruise lines, including MSC and TUI, managed to restart some sailings in Europe, the wider industry remains concerned about the risk of spreading coronavirus onboard.
“The cruise sector, with Government support, has spent the last seven months learning lessons from the pandemic and putting in place new protocols and industry guidance to create a COVID-19 safe environment onboard,” stated the latest DfT report.
It continued: “However, since then there has been a significant rise in COVID-19 cases in the UK and abroad.
“Against this context, it was rightly considered that now is not the right time to see the resumption of cruise operations from the UK and the FCDO continues to advise against sea-going cruise travel based on the latest medical advice.”
The US CDC has issued a “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order” which outlined conditions in which cruises will be allowed to retract.
These include testing and additional safeguards for crew members while building laboratory capacity needed to test guests and crew in the future; simulated voyages to test a cruise ship operator’s ability to mitigate COVID-19 risk; certification for ships that meet specific requirements; and a phased return to guest voyages in a manner that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission among guests, crew and communities visited.
Royal Caribbean is among cruise lines to put forward plans for simulated sailings.
So far, the cruise line has reportedly attracted more than 100,000 volunteers to step onboard its “test voyage”.
Royal Caribbean additionally launched a Facebook group to discover how much interest there was among cruisers for the trial sailings.
The group has garnered around 50,000 members so far.
“The Royal Caribbean trial is a great way to demonstrate their commitment to getting people back to booking cruise holidays,” Rob Gower, cruise expert and owner of luxury travel firm Dragonfly Traveller told Express.co.uk.
He added: “It is going to be tough to get the confidence back for people to start booking cruise holidays again although 2022 cruise bookings are already being taken and filling up which suggests people have the belief that it will take a year or so for confidence to be regained.”
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