State of the industry: Executives are positive about the future of near-term cruises
Cruise line executives from Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Group and MSC Cruises gathered Tuesday morning in Miami to discuss the industry’s past, present and future in a panel discussion, with all the signs indicating a strong 2023.
“There are always sleepless nights, because these are very large, dynamic companies. We are definitely on the other side. You see our guests and crew getting back to enjoying the best vacation in the world…we’re not completely off the hook yet, but we can see all the light on the other side,” said Jason Liberty, President and CEO of the management of Royal Caribbean Group, who also called the pandemic a direct meteor blow to the industry.
Liberty said the second half of 2022 would normalize and resemble pre-COVID on a business level, with 2023 looking good.
“That means all of our ships are back in business, and occupancy and fare (ticket price) at the levels we were seeing before COVID, hopefully better,” he said.
Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation, said the pandemic has brought the industry closer together.
“We have redoubled our efforts to achieve zero emissions,” he added. “The industry has gotten stronger and is really well positioned for the future.”
Also announced Tuesday morning, Donald will transition to Vice Chairman of Carnival Corporation while Josh Weinstein will transition to President and CEO of Carnival Corporation beginning August 1.
MSC Cruises Executive Chairman Pierfrancesco Vago, who gave a keynote address earlier in the day, said: “We have been through geopolitical issues, pandemics, safety and security and all kinds of issues… the capabilities of this industry to be so reactive and dynamic in its approach to learning and adapting to the situation is (incredible).
A significant moment, Vago said, was when the company restarted operations with MSC Grandiosa, sailing from Genoa in July 2020.
Donald admitted that “everything in society will end up on ships”, noting that COVID was not the first virus.
“We were able to put protocols in place to manage it,” he said. “There will be COVID on the ships. There is COVID everywhere in society.
Donald added that the company had welcomed more than 2 million guests since its restart without a major outbreak.
Regarding the industry’s relationship with the CDC, Donald said the industry is getting closer to the fact that the CDC treats cruise ships like other travel and tourism industries.
Overall, Donald said things were looking very positive.
“2023…we should be able to be better than 2019,” Donald said.
Liberty said the future-proof word was dangerous, but the industry and Royal Caribbean were diligent.
“We can’t lose our due diligence in anything we do,” Liberty said.
Other challenges covered include human resources and recruitment, supply chain and inflation, with executives noting that the value of cruise vacations would be a strong point compared to land-based competition.
It should be noted that Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings did not participate in the roundtable for the second consecutive year.