Cruise Restart Could Begin In Caribbean, Preceding Official U.S. Opening
As cruise cancellations have now become a protracted event, CruiseWeek asked several readers for their expectations of the days ahead on issues regarding return to service.
One noteworthy expectation among most sources is that ocean cruising is going to start in Europe before it kicks off in the United States.
And if North Americans fly over to catch a seven-day Med or northern-Europe cruise, retailers say they would also probably be willing to take Caribbean hops departing from outside the United States. This would put the whole cruise outside of U.S. CDC jurisdiction, which means that Caribbean cruising could precede an official U.S. opening.
"Could the cruise lines, if they don't want to wait for the CDC, do a cruise roundtrip from Santo Domingo and not call on any U.S. ports to speed up the return to service? Because it now looks like it's going to be a while before anybody can cruise from U.S. ports," one retailer said.
He continued: "If Europe opens first, which is looking like it will, then somebody who wants to can get on a flight to Rome can do a roundtrip cruise. How is that different from someone taking a flight to a place that already has a lot of lift, like Cancun, to catch a cruise?"
CruiseWeek ran the theory by several cruise execs.
One said decisions to be made in the weeks ahead would shape if or if not Caribbean-based cruises are a practicality. "I like the Caribbean concept, but the CDC has a very large footprint."
Another exec said, "We're not sure about what is going to happen in the U.S. with the CDC from a rules and timing perspective, but there is a growing humanitarian crisis emerging in the Caribbean since many countries completely depend upon cruising to drive their economy."
Cruise Sector To Compete With Resorts For Customers
Another sentiment is that cruising is going to face a tremendous amount of new competition from resorts in Mexico and elsewhere.
"Cruises had been beating resorts in Mexico and stealing share," one top seller reported. "People in large numbers had shifted to cruises instead of resorts. But that's about to shift the other way because resorts are not seen as dangerous like cruising, because you can social distance more easily, a lot of them are open-air."
The re-opening could present an opportunity to compete with the resorts on their turf.
"To me it's almost there's almost like an opportunity to develop new itineraries for cruises departing from places like Limon, Costa Rica to the Caribbean, or from Panama City to the Caribbean, or from Cancun to the Caribbean, where they may not have to worry about the CDC approving it.
"They do have to worry about what to do if people get sick onboard. But it's something they may be forced to experiment with to get business rolling."