Having Raised Billions, Cruise Lines Not Rushing Return To Service
As cruise suspensions keep being extended, there is strong sentiment among Cruise Week sources doubtful North American ocean-cruise sailings will return to service before 2021.
An exec from one cruise line told Cruise Week, "Everyone is focused on the needs of all the various regulators around the world, from the U.S. to China. We'll be back, but we want to be back in a way that is reassuring to our guests, our crew and to the regulators."
North American Cruise Market
Port of call limitations in the near-term are a problem for North American brands, but there are multiple other factors causing a delay with cruise lines returning to the North American market.
One is that the lines have raised billions of dollars over the past two months, which lessens the existential need for a return to service.
Cruise Week says cruise execs now sound more confident about holding off on a return-to-service date in the near future and any talk of returning in 2020 is being downplayed, with the emphasis being placed on getting it right for when cruises do return.
"We’re not feeling pressure to rush back to service; we’re feeling pressure to get it right," said one cruise exec.
Cruise companies have sent return-to-service plans to the U.S. CDC, according to cruise lines, but the public health authority had yet to view them as of 12JUN.
This could be a reason many sources continue to see Europe opening up selectively before the U.S. for big-ship cruising, writes Cruise Week.
Moreover, The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) seems less publicly negative about cruising than does the U.S. CDC, whose directors publicly criticize cruise-industry safety on a regular basis.
European Cruise Market
Small-ship services are beginning to re-emerge in Europe, but are focusing on locally sourced markets. On the big-ship side, there is talk, but nothing tangible.
From the U.K., P&O delayed its return until mid-OCT; Cunard soon after announced a pause extending into NOV. In both cases, the lines cited a lack of available ports.
There was also the unspoken admission that the Australian government is considered unlikely to allow cruising back for quite some time. Australia has been a big market for P&O Cruises and an important one for Cunard.
The international cruise ship ban in Australia is now due to end 17SEP, but there is significant doubt among Cruise Week sources that it is a realistic date. Relations between Australian regulators and the cruise lines have been openly bad.