Cruise & ferry sector finds its sea legs as stakeholders chart new waters

By Luke Barras-hill |

Record forward bookings and a staged revival of in-demand itineraries are enticing pandemic-weary cruise and ferry shoppers back onboard, TRBusiness can report.

Carnival-owned Aida Cruises was the first to restart international operations from Germany in May 2021 – albeit with zero port calls – while Celebrity Edge weighed anchor out of Fort Lauderdale in June, bound for Mexico and the Bahamas.

Royal Caribbean International has announced full fleet resumption by Spring 2022, Aida plans to have 10 ships sailing by year-end and Carnival is targeting 50% of its global fleet to be operational by the end of November 2021.

Meanwhile in the UK, following a summer of domestic ‘sailcations’, the resumption of international cruise travel was permitted in August. Though, it has been hampered by the government’s stop-start red, amber and green travel list.

Ben Bouldin, Vice President EMEA, Royal Caribbean Cruises.

CAUTIOUS STEPS

Soaring Covid-19 case numbers in the US have prompted several cruise line operators, including Carnival and Princess, to mandate the wearing of face masks in shops, casinos and other crowded indoor areas from early August.

This is in addition to PCR testing and proof of vaccination measures laid out by the majority of operators.

This falls in line with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) weekly updated colour coding ship health guide for vessels operating under the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).

Following a June 2021 lawsuit ruling in favour of the state of Florida, the CSO is now voluntary for cruise line operators arriving in or departing from a port in the Florida. However, stakeholders are largely complying with the rules.

Operators out of the UK are also following guidance issued by Public Health England and the UK Chamber of Shipping.

Most cruise companies require passengers to be fully vaccinated with those inbound from the US and EU amber list countries needing a pre-departure test and PCR test on the second day following arrival.

“For our European sailings, we are continuing to work closely with destination partners and monitoring the latest travel requirements,” Ben Bouldin, Vice President EMEA, Royal Caribbean Cruises told TRBusiness.

ALTERING COURSE

According to a Virgin Voyages’ spokesperson, its ‘Voyage Well Expert Advisory Group’ has been instrumental in guiding on-board health and safety decisions.

“We’re continuing to monitor our ports of call and corresponding travel regulations in those countries,” clarifies the spokesperson. “While our voyages are mapped out well in advance, we can be agile and change course while still offering an exceptional vacation.”

Aida Cruises is planning to have 10 vessels operational by the end of the year.

James Prescott, Managing Director, Harding, is forecasting an ‘absolute boom’ driven by consumers that are weary of the endless restrictions imposed by Covid-19.

He said: “With the right tailored guest proposition, there is no reason retail can’t smash records. Guests are so excited to be back on board and able to shop that they will engage far more than ever before.

“We used the enforced pause to re-look at every single shop on every single ship from brands, layouts and concepts to how we sell, promote and price.

“Each business unit will restart as close to a ‘new optimum’ as is possible, and the incredibly strong sales we’ve seen so far suggest that guests are responding extremely positively to new propositions.”

Over in the Caribbean, a spokesperson from the Caribbean Tourism Organization told TRBusiness: “Cruising is slowly returning to the Caribbean with a limited number of destinations having already received calls.

“The major lines – Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean and Holland America – are all tightening restrictions and are now requiring a negative Covid-19 test to board.

“In addition, our member countries are implementing their own measures, including limited tours to pre-arranged programmes at specific attractions and avoiding direct contact with the general population by having tour coaches meet the passengers at the ship.”

For a more detailed analysis of the retail restart onboard cruises and ferries, see the TRBusiness September e-zine.

This is a shortened version of an article that first appeared in the TRBusiness September e-zine. Words: Claire Malcolm.

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