As travelers start to get ready to return to ships this upcoming summer, Carnival Cruise Line is seeing a significant increase in demand. However, with COVID-19 restrictions still in place throughout the United States, the company has stated that it may need to move its homeports out of the country.
The cruise line has seen a significant jump in the levels of people booking trips during the first quarter, up around 90% from the previous fourth-quarter levels, according to CNBC. In addition, the bookings for next year are at an even higher level than bookings from even before the pandemic in 2019.
In a conference call this past Wednesday, David Bernstein, Carnival’s Chief Financial Officer, stated, “Everybody wants to go away. And I will tell you, the next best thing to actually going away is planning a vacation. And that’s what a lot of people seem to be doing right now.”
Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival, commented in a press release that the booking trends we are seeing show “both the significant pent up demand and long-term potential for cruising.”
To accommodate, the company has made plans to introduce six new ships by the end of 2021 to help curb the newly increased demand.
“They will drive even more enthusiasm, excitement, and demand around our restore plans with both our brand loyalists and with new recruits,” Donald continued on the conference call.
The company stated that it can expect all of its fleets to be sailing by early next year. CNBC reported, “This summer, it is on track to resume cruise operations with 30% to 50% occupancy on nine ships across six of its brands: AIDA, Costa, P&O Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises and Seabour.”
In light of this, coronavirus restrictions and guidelines are making it vital for the cruise lines to continue to adjust.
“2021 will clearly be a transition year, we expect the environment to remain dynamic over the next 12 months as we roll out our fleet, while continuing to adapt to an ever-changing situation,” Donald stated.
The cruise line “ended the first quarter with $11.5 billion of cash and short-term investments, and must make its funds last until its business resumes,” according to a report from CNBC. To make the funds last, it must gain clearance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which still holds a ban on cruise sailing.
The cruise line has stated that it may need to move its home ports to locales outside of the United States if it fails to meet all of the strict regulations put forward by the CDC. For example, the company stated that it would not be able to allow a rule that required all passengers to be vaccinated before boarding.
“We’d prefer to have those jobs and all the staff all be here,” Donald stated. “But if we’re unable to sail, then obviously we will consider home porting elsewhere.”
“Our biggest constraint right now is being able to ramp up with crew,” he continued.”It will take us minimum 60, up to 90 days, to be able to get a crew on board, trained up with new protocols, etcetera, to be able to execute sailing.”
This past Friday, the CDC published a set of new guidelines called their “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) requiring cruise lines to establish agreements at ports where they intend to operate, implement routine testing of crew, and develop plans incorporating vaccination strategies to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19 by crew and passengers.”
The CDC continued on to say that the next phase of a CSO “will include simulated (trial) voyages that will allow crew and port personnel to practice new COVID-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with passengers.”