Norwegian Cruise and Carnival Cruise plan to resume sailings from US ports this summer, marking the return of cruise ships to the industry’s most profitable market for the first time since the pandemic began.
Norwegian said on Monday that it will sail from New York, Los Angeles, Port Canaveral and Miami. Carnival Cruise intends to resume voyages from Port of Galveston, Texas in early July and that it planned to do so out of Miami in the same month.
The announcement from the companies comes after protracted negotiations with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over the safety measures that will be required. Passengers will need to have received a final dose of a coronavirus vaccine approved by US authorities.
Frank Del Rio, Norwegian’s chief executive, credited Florida governor Ron DeSantis for supporting the industry and said “his leadership helped bring the CDC to the table”.
DeSantis in April said Florida would sue the federal government and the CDC in an effort to ensure sailing is resumed “immediately”. The Republican has also clashed with the CDC over its decision to recommend vaccination for passengers and crew, claiming that Florida would prosecute any cruise line that made such a stipulation.
Despite announcing a resumption on Monday, Carnival added that requiring all guests to be vaccinated would make it “very difficult to deliver the experience our guests expect, especially given the large number of families with younger children who sail with us”.
Carnival, which already requires vaccinations for those cruising on its ships from Greece, the UK and Barbados, said it was still working with the CDC and state of Florida on protocols for its Miami sailings and would provide more information by Friday.
Operators suspended sailings across the world in March 2020 after several cruises suffered Covid-19 outbreaks. Voyages in parts of Asia and Europe resumed in July 2020, and the industry has pushed US authorities to ease restrictions.
The crisis has cost the industry billions, with the Cruise Lines International Association estimating that more than $70bn worth of economic activity was lost as a result.
The announcements from Norwegian and Carnival come after Royal Caribbean on Friday said cruises will resume in the US in July and August.
Ivor Jones, an analyst at Peel Hunt, said that he expected Carnival’s recovery to be helped as pent-up demand and limited capacity on board would allow the company to raise prices.
The cruise line industry’s global capacity is expected to be between five per cent to six per cent lower this year than forecast because some cruise lines collapsed during the pandemic while ships were also scrapped, according to UBS analysts.
Shares in cruise operators advanced on Monday, with those of Norwegian climbing 3.4 per cent, Carnival rising 2.2 per cent and Royal Caribbean 1.7 per cent higher.