It's cruising. But not as we know it.
The much-anticipated restart of the global cruise industry is slowly but surely coming back to life, but at a significant cost of mothballing a fleet and the mind-blowing loss of earnings, which has not only impacted the cruise operators; the entire supply chain has been bunkered down during this unprecedented 12 months - although I don’t personally foresee a true return until Spring | Summer 2022. And it’s not just the cruise operators and the vast network of suppliers that have economically suffered. The ports and communities visited whom benefit from shore excursions have sorely missed the income generated.
One look at the LSE and the publicly traded Carnival Plc paints a stark picture, hitting an all-time low in April 2020 of 614p compared to a whopping 5360p just 36 months earlier. Nevertheless, like many industries those share prices are slowly recovering, but it could take many years of solid trading to truly recover. To put this into financial context the loses are truly eye watering, with Carnival reporting a quarterly burn rate averaging $2Bn a quarter. Domestically, the UK cruise market is preparing to set sail in May and June with Southampton based P&O cruises lifting anchor on the 27th June, although the full itinerary is yet to be announced. But there are conditions, crucially that all passengers will have to prove that they have had two coronavirus jabs and a bucket full of insurance to boot.
Similarly stateside, both Saga and Virgin Voyages are taking similar measures to restart with a host of new health protocols. For me, Cruising is all about discovering new World’s… those far flung locations under beautiful azure blue skies, however the biggest difference this Summer, not withstanding the host of medical hurdles facing passengers and crew is that the first voyages will effectively be to nowhere; 2021 will be defined by the year of the staycation cruise. As Simon Calder, travel editor of the Independent writes "because the voyages are 'cruises to nowhere', the captains will look at the weather forecast and aim to sail where it is warm and sunny." He added the P&O concept is "you can look but you can't touch".
Without a question, there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon, but it will be two or three years until the industry starts to look anything remotely like the 2019 season. And longer to recover the lost earnings over the past 12 months and H2 of the 2021 season. However any restart no matter how cautious or tentative is really positive news and CSS, celebrating 25 years of service excellence in Travel Retail, will be ready to serve.