The slow recovery of the cruise industry
One of the first Covid-19 alarms sounded from the decks of the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Quarantined for weeks off Yokohama, Japan, more than 700 passengers on board were infected in February 2020. Before all could disembark, 14 people died from a virus few understand.
In the following months, with travelers forced to stay at home and entire fleets at anchor, luxury liners were the segment of the travel industry hardest hit by the coronavirus. Now, as tourists eager to escape their homes contemplate travel options, the cruise industry is rising to the challenge of inviting them to come back on board with refitted ships for safety and publicity campaigns aimed at bringing people on board. passengers at ease.
Calling itself “the world’s most luxurious cruise line,” Regent Seven Seas offers smaller, more intimate voyages to more than 300 ports around the world. President and CEO Jason Montague said Regent Seven Seas initially assessed the post-Covid cruise in spatial terms.
“In early 2021, we launched our Unparalleled Space at Sea campaign, focusing on the key benefits of an abundance of personal space and space-to-guest ratios,” said Montague.
Regent Seven Seas has added private dining options in suites and small-group shore excursions. Montague credits the added space program and the distilled desire to travel for launching copious bookings for the new season without any fair price reduction.
“We have experienced an incredible pent-up demand for cruising which has not weakened,” he adds. “Our launch in 2022-2023 achieved the best single day booking record in the company’s history, an increase of almost 40% from the previous record. Our 2023 Global Cruise doubled the previous opening day’s booking record for a Global Cruise.
To allay concerns about a pandemic, Regent Seven Seas has installed the SailSAFE health and safety program. Designed by the Cruise Line’s Wellness Council, chaired by former U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. The program adds sanitary equipment and practices designed to provide multiple layers of protection against Covid-19.
Cruise expert Bob Levinstein, CEO of CruiseCompete.com and Compete Ventures, points out that every cruise line should review such health programs on all of their ships to reassure passengers.
“The most important thing cruise lines have done is dramatically improve the ventilation systems on board ships,” Levinstein said. “Royal Caribbean says the air in cabins will be completely changed every five minutes and every four minutes in large public areas. They also use filters that exceed the standards used in hospitals, better than ventilation on airplanes. “
Levinstein adds pre-cruise testing and vaccine requirements are expected to reduce transmission to near zero.
“If I wrote texts for cruise lines, the line I would use would be ‘Safer on a cruise’ because it’s safer than virtually any other public place,” he says. “The sample population is less likely to have Covid, less likely to contract Covid, and is in an environment where it is less likely to spread it than most other countries. “
Small-ship boutique cruise line Windstar Cruises has invested millions of dollars to retrofit its six ships with HEPA filters and UV-C germicidal ultraviolet irradiation to filter and clean the air.
Chris Prelog, president of Windstar Cruises, said the company plans to return to sea in June with limited capacity, even if it’s “like balancing on a tightrope that keeps moving” before the relaunch.
“The appropriate recommendations, guidelines and precautions are constantly changing based on science, the current situation in each location and the official response from each government,” Prelog said. “I have to remember that we need to focus on making informed decisions based on prioritizing the health and safety of our guests, our crew and the places our yachts visit.”
Windstar requires proof of vaccination for all guests. while requiring masks, social distancing, testing and enhanced cleaning as part of the company’s Beyond Ordinary Care program. The cruise line also follows regulatory authority guidelines on every visit to Windstar Port.
“In April, we received a record number of bookings for the 2021 and 2022 cruises, with trips favoring the Caribbean and Greece,” adds Prelog. “The most apparent trend is that once people get vaccinated, they book travel. Many of our clients have saved money, so there is a desire to travel with the funds to pay for it. It creates a quick recovery for us.
Like Levinstein, Prelog wants to get the message across that cruising is not just about cleanliness, but is becoming one of the safest travel options.
“Our larger yacht carries 342 guests at maximum capacity, while our smaller yachts only have room for 148,” he says. “When you combine that with a group of fully vaccinated people, plus steps like HEPA filters, UV-C lights, masks, ample deck space, and a dedicated cleanliness crew, it’s a far cry from ‘a Petri dish. “
Looking at the industry as a whole, Levinstein believes the cruise industry will make a full recovery as soon as it is allowed to return ships to full capacity. Unfortunately for consumers, there are fewer cabins to book immediately as fewer vessels are in service and most companies have sold their older, less profitable vessels in the past 18 months.
The result: fewer cabins will mean very healthy cruise prices until all ships are in service.
“The ships will start from ports close to the United States such as Bermuda, the Bahamas and the Caribbean in June,” Levinstein said. “The hope is that we will see some departures from US ports between mid-July and early August. The ramp-up will likely be gradual until the fall, with the expectation of full capacity sometime between December and February. “