A couple of days ago, Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald made a rather bold statement given all the uncertainty in cruising. During a keynote address to Seatrade Cruise Virtual, he was asked about his optimism that cruises will return to the United States in 2020.
In response, he said, “Yes, we will be sailing sometime this year.” And when asked to rate his optimism on a scale of 1-5, he answered with a “4.9”
In a business update call with investors today, Donald doubled down on his comments:
“At this time, we have every reason to be optimistic that we will be sailing in the U.S. before the year end.”
– Carnival Corporation CEO, Arnold Donald
For cruise passengers eager to get back to sailing, that’s a great thing to hear. Since cruises were suspended back in March, it’s been close to eight months of no sailing from the United States. In the meantime, there have been multiples rounds of extensions.
The Reasoning Behind Carnival’s Confidence
So how can the CEO of the one of the largest cruise companies in the world be so confident?
“The reality is that the extension of the “No Sail Order” was only 30 days, that goes out through October, which aligns with what the industry has voluntarily done on its own,” Arnold said. “We’ve got more testing regimens becoming more available. We’ve had the successful sailings to date of us and others in Europe with the enhanced protocols and operating procedures we put there.”
He went on to explain, “We’ve been collaborating here in the U.S. with all the various companies. Everyone has been informed by global medical experts and scientists. Everyone has had their own bevy of these folks, and fortunately the science is starting to align.”
Now, despite the optimism Donald did point out that various authorities have to sign off before Carnival ships can sail again.
He also hedged his prediction some, pointing out that you can’t predict the future completely, even though things are trending in the right direction for the industry.
Saying that, Carnival and the entire industry have made bold moves to keep passengers healthy and return to sailing.
Most notably, major cruise lines recently committed to 100% testing of passengers and crew before boarding. This is an undertaking that the Carnival CEO pointed to as something no one else in the travel industry is doing. (Details still have to be worked out about types of tests, who will pay for them, and when they will happen.)
In addition, safety plans from multiple lines call for everything from mask wearing to increased sanitation, social distancing measures, improved ventilation, and even spots to isolate passengers if they fall ill.
In fact, Carnival says it is aiming to make the onboard experience as safe — and hopefully safer — than similar activities on land.
When Carnival Cruises Are Set to Return
Earlier this month, Carnival Cruise Lines made the announcement that it would cancel all sailings through the rest of 2020, except for a handful of ships sailing from two ports beginning in November: Miami and Port Canaveral.
While this certainly made headlines, it’s not unexpected. Carnival has repeatedly stressed it will come back with a staggered approach. That includes sailing at limited capacity with just a few ships in order to implement the new policies and procedures and make sure they can sail as intended.
Whenever trips do return, expect them to be popular.
During the conference call, executives repeatedly mentioned pent-up demand for cruising, along with promising booking numbers into 2021. In fact, as reported by Cruzely just a few days ago, the limited sailings from Carnival from Miami and Port Canaveral in 2020 had already reached capacity and were no longer available for booking. A company spokesperson called demand “very high.”
Of course, whether the trips from Miami and Port Canaveral are able to sail in November remains to be seen. The company, however, seems optimistic trips will be sailing soon.