Towards the end of 2019 reports started coming out about a new virus but it wasn’t until early 2020 that the global cruise industry starting getting impacted. At the time, not many people would have expected the vast impact this would have on the cruise industry.
On February 1, 2020, Princess Cruises announced one confirmed case onboard their ship in Yokohama, Japan; soon enough, this number grew exponentially. The ship was detained and quarantined for two weeks.
On March 11, 2020, Viking Cruise Line, as the first worldwide, announced they were suspending all cruises worldwide. For many, the thought was that it was an overreaction and that surely this would blow over quite quickly. Even Viking owner Thorsten Hagen seemed to think so at the time:
“We have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend operations of our river and ocean vessels embarking from March 12 to April 30, 2020 – at which time we believe Viking will be in a better place to provide the experiences our guests expect and deserve.”
Suspensions, Cancelations, Disappointment
After several cases were found onboard, multiple outbreaks, and flight cancellations worldwide, there was only one decision the different cruise companies, port authorities, and national governments could make. That was to ban and cancel all cruise ship travel worldwide.
In March, Canada was one of the first countries to ban any ships with more than 500 passengers to enter the country. Australia, New Zealand, and The United States banned all ships arriving from foreign ports and directed all foreign-flagged ships to leave the country.
Guests onboard the ships were quarantined for almost a month before being repatriated. Even now, crew members are on vessels worldwide, crewing the ships until the industry resumes operations.
Many cruise companies have tried hard to repatriate crew members. However, due to the strict protocols set up by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, repatriation is still being delayed.
Many months after those first cancelations, the question is now how the cruise industry will come back. A few cruises in the Canary Islands, Mediterranean, Asia, and the Middle East, will not save an industry worth billions of $.
Is Recovery A Possibility?
When the CDC announced on October 30, 2020, that a conditional framework would replace the no-sail order, the thought was that we could be seeing cruises as soon as January 1, 2021, and start the new year fresh and anew, especially after Pfizer announced their vaccine in December.
The further postponements we’ve seen this week prove that this has been wishful thinking. A combination of stringent conditions from the CDC and rising COVID-19 cases worldwide, with new mutations spreading and causing lockdowns in Europe, means we will not see the first steps to recovery just yet.
In 2019, the global cruise industry welcomed nearly 30 million passengers, creating jobs for 1.8 million people worldwide and contributing over $154 billion to the global economy.
The cruise industry heavily impacts those who rely on tourism for their livelihood and vendors in the various supply chains. An article by the World Bank shows that a large cruise ship visit could be worth upwards of USD 200.000 to the local economy.
Is recovery possible? Yes, it still is. A recent survey by Cruise Lines International Association says that 82% of people that have cruised before will still book a cruise once the pandemic is over.
Despite multiple outbreaks of COVID-19 and uncertainty over when sailing will reconvene, multiple reports say that there have been increasing bookings for 2021.
It has been a rock & roll year for everyone involved in the cruise industry. Constant disappointments over cancellations and postponements have taken over, while millions of guests and hundreds of thousands of crew members eagerly await the return of cruising as we know it. When this happens is anyone’s guess. What we do know is this: We Will Be Back.
Main Photo Credit: rahulraju / Shutterstock.com