Carnival Cruise Line is seeing an increase in demand as travelers get ready to return to ships this summer, but with remaining COVID-19 restrictions in place in the United States, the company said it might need to move its home ports elsewhere.
The cruise ship operator has seen a heightened level of people booking trips during the first quarter, up around 90% from fourth-quarter levels, CNBC reported. On top of that, the current bookings for next year are at higher numbers than bookings before the pandemic in 2019.
“Everybody wants to go away. And I will tell you, the next best thing to actually going away is planning a vacation. And that’s what a lot of people seem to be doing right now,” said David Bernstein, Carnival’s chief financial officer, in a conference call on Wednesday.
Carnival CEO Arnold Donald said in a press release that the trends of booking show “both the significant pent up demand and long-term potential for cruising,” per the outlet.
The company also has plans to introduce six new ships by the end of 2021 in order to increase future demand.
“They will drive even more enthusiasm, excitement and demand around our restore plans with both our brand loyalists and with new recruits,” Donald said in a conference call.
The cruise line said that it expects all of its fleets to be sailing by next year. “This summer, it is on track to resume cruise operations with 30% to 50% occupancy on nine ships across six of its brands: AIDA, Costa, P&O Cruises, Cunard, Princess Cruises and Seabour,” CNBC reported.
However, coronavirus restrictions and guidelines are making it vital for the cruise lines to keep adjusting.
“2021 will clearly be a transition year, we expect the environment to remain dynamic over the next 12 months as we roll out our fleet, while continuing to adapt to an ever-changing situation,” Donald said.
The cruise operator “ended the first quarter with $11.5 billion of cash and short-term investments, and must make its funds last until its business resumes,” according to CNBC. In order to make its funds last, it has to gain clearance by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which still has a ban on sailing.
The company said that it might need to move its home ports to locations outside of the United States if it cannot meet all of the regulations put forward by the CDC. As an example, the company said that it would not be able to abide by a rule that required all passengers to be vaccinated.
“We’d prefer to have those jobs and all the staff all be here,” Donald said. “But if we’re unable to sail, then obviously we will consider home porting elsewhere.”
“Our biggest constraint right now is being able to ramp up with crew,” Donald said. “It will take us minimum 60, up to 90 days, to be able to get a crew on board, trained up with new protocols, etcetera, to be able to execute sailing.”
On Friday, the CDC put forward new guidelines regarding their “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) requiring cruise lines to establish agreements at ports where they intend to operate, implement routine testing of crew, and develop plans incorporating vaccination strategies to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19 by crew and passengers.”
The CDC stated that the next phase of the CSO “will include simulated (trial) voyages that will allow crew and port personnel to practice new COVID-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with passengers.”
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