Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has asked federal health authorities to let it sail from US ports starting July 4, the cruise line says its vaccination requirement for passengers and crew is a precaution against Covid-19. It cannot have been a shock that Norwegian Cruise Line announced a vaccine requirement for all cruises departing from the US, and for their cruises in the Caribbean and Greece.
The third largest cruise line worldwide needs to sail, and adding the vaccinations to the onboard measures was a question of when not if one of the big three would require it.
That being said, the question is now when and if Carnival and Royal Caribbean might require the same for when U.S. cruises resume. Although confidence in the vaccines has been low early on in the process, the number of Americans willing to get a shot is growing ever larger.
A larger number of vaccinated American guests will make Carnival and Royal Caribbean’s decision process a lot easier. However, these lines sail with far more young families and children, making this decision a lot harder than it was for NCLH.
Norwegian is a Vastly Different Company Than CCL and RCL
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, with Regent Seven Seas, Oceania Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise line as its three cruise lines, is a vastly different company than Carnival Corporation or Royal Caribbean.
With average ages over 65 years old onboard Regent Seven Seas and Oceania and the average age onboard Norwegian Cruise Line 52 years, the company has made the best choice for its base.
According to research done by the Pew Research Center in the US, among older adults in the United States, 41% say they have already received at least one dose; another 44% say they definitely or probably plan to get vaccinated.
Intent to get vaccinated remains higher among those ages 65 and older than among younger adults—something that will have been carefully considered by Frank Del Rio, the company’s President, and CEO.
However, both Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean cater primarily to young people, families, and have a far greater percentage of kids under ten years of age, as well as teenagers onboard. So while it makes sense for Norwegian Cruise Line to go for mandatory vaccinations, it won’t hurt their bottom line much; it is an entirely different story for the other two.
While Royal Caribbean can make vaccinations mandatory on the few ships sailing this summer in Europe and the Caribbean, it will think hard to do this in the States. The same counts for Carnival and Carnival Cruise Line in particular.
Will Business Suffer?
The question is, of course, if RCL and Carnival do go the vaccine route, will business suffer? There are two schools of thought here.
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The first one is no, the business will not suffer. First of all, ships will be sailing far below capacity; ships in Europe and Asia have been sailing at 60-70% capacity. Therefore, the 30-40% of berths that have not been sold can be counted as the guests that did not take the vaccine.
Second, the pent-up demand Arnold Donald, Richard D. Fain, Christine Duffy, and Michael Bayley have been talking about is a real thing. Cruises in the UK, Caribbean, and Asia have been selling like hotcakes.
The second school of thought is that the cruise lines need to be very careful to start mandating guests a mandatory vaccination. Likely the lines will have it checked through and through by their legal teams. Nonetheless, there could be some unwelcome blowback on this.
Not only that, Disney Cruise Line has already said it will not require a vaccine mandate in the UK this summer; the cruise line is not one to walk a fine line with safety.
However, they understand that their client base is young families with kids—something which is the same for Royal Caribbean and Carnival—mandating a vaccine could cost the companies a fortune.
The vaccine requirements could well be a booster for the Norwegian Cruise Line; stock prices made a 7% jump after Norwegian released its plans for the US. Now the cruise line has announced cruises in Europe and the Caribbean under the same vaccine requirements this will only continue for the cruise line.
Something that will be watched with interest by both Royal Caribbean and Carnival. While Carnival Cruise Line has been saying it will not sail from foreign homeports, if the pressure to sail builds from investors, the boardroom discussions could change quickly.
And that pressure will build if the CDC holds fast to their unworkable Conditional Sailing Order, a November 1 expiration date for that order, and even more so if the CDC approves the Norwegian Cruise Line plan to sail 100% vaccinated from US ports.