There’s no arguing that the past two months have been the toughest ever faced by the cruise industry. From negative headlines to suspended cruises to having to take on billions in debt to stay afloat during the stoppage, cruise lines have been hit from all sides.
There have even been headlines claiming that cruise companies could go bankrupt and some people on social media saying that cruise ships will never sail again after this crisis.
That may be premature.
While the world hasn’t seen anything like the current crisis in recent memory, cruises have a long time before they are down for the count. There are simply a number of positive things that are in their favor that make it likely cruises will once again be sailing in the years ahead.
Cruising Offers Lots of Value
One of the big reasons that cruising has soared in popularity in the past several decades is that it offers a tremendous value.
Consider a family of four taking a typical vacation to the Caribbean for a week. That’s four plane tickets, a week’s stay at a hotel, food, entertainment, and more. Consider this estimated budget:
- Plane tickets: $1,200 ($300 x 4)
- Hotel: $1,400 ($200 x 7 nights)
- Entertainment: $700 ($100 x 7 nights)
- Food: $700 ($100 x 7 nights)
- Total: $4,000
On a cruise ship there’s plenty to spend money on, but there’s also a lot of value. Depending on the specific trip, a family of four can sail for about $2,500 in a balcony cabin — and even cheaper if booking an interior cabin. That fare takes care of your room, food, and entertainment, as well as your transport to the Caribbean.
If you’re on a budget, it’s hard to beat the value that cruise can offer. That should continue to attract passengers once they feel it’s safe to cruise again.
Cruising Is Linked to Relatively Few Cases of COVID-19
If you went solely off the headlines, you might think that cruise ships were the biggest contributors to the spread of the virus. They weren’t.
In fact, of the millions and millions of cases around the world, cruise ships were linked to about 2,800 cases. Our analysis showed that ships were tied to only 0.07% of cases around the world. That means 99.93% of those illnesses didn’t have a direct tie to sailing.
Of those cases, two ships were responsible for about half the total. One of those — the Diamond Princess — was held in quarantine for weeks, which seemed to actually allow the virus to spread further than it would have otherwise.
We are not saying that cruise ships didn’t have cases on board, or that it was wrong to suspend cruises (doing so surely stemmed the number of cases on ships). But when it comes to the actual stats, the number of cases on cruise ships was relatively low.
Cruising Is Easy
Another thing that will likely draw back passengers is how easy it is to cruise. Again, think of a normal vacation. You have to plan and book flights. Search through dozens of hotels to find the right one for you, plan out your activities, your meals. It can mean a lot of time and effort to plan a relaxing vacation.
Cruising is largely the opposite. There is some planning that takes place, but beyond when you want to sail and where you want to go, it’s not much. When you get on the ship, places to eat and things to do are laid out for you. All you have to do is pick what sounds the best at the time.
There’s arguably no “easier” vacation than taking a cruise, and its simplicity is a big reason that people love to sail.
Passengers Are Highly Satisfied
One key to cruising making a strong comeback? People that do it are highly satisfied.
There’s a large contingent of people that love to bash cruises. For them, no matter what a cruise line offered, it wouldn’t be good enough. Many times these people have never even given cruising a shot. But those that have generally have good things to say.
According to a recent industry survey, the average rating of cruise passengers for the satisfaction level of their trip was a 9 out of 10. with their trip. Around 86% said they would “very likely” book a cruise for their next vacation.
Of course, this survey was completed well before the COVID-19 outbreak. Even so, figures like these provide a tailwind to the cruise industry returning.
Cruise Ships Offer Something for Everyone
If you want a lot of customers, then you better have appeal across generations. Cruise ships offer exactly that.
Are you a foodie? There are tons of gourmet restaurants on ships. Have kids? There are kids areas where you can drop them off (great for parents!) and there are lots of activities for families on the ship. Want to have a romantic evening with your spouse? Grab a drink and find a cozy spot. Want to indulge and relax? Head to the ship’s spa.
No matter what you like, a cruise has something to offer. Unlike a trip to Orlando, which likely only appeals to families, or to Las Vegas, which isn’t so great for kids, cruises cast a much wider net. This broad appeal ensures there will always be demand for sailing.
There Are Lots of People With a Stake in Cruises Thriving
About a decade ago, the term “too big to fail” entered the national vocabulary, related to big companies that received bailouts because letting them fail would cause too much damage.
During this crisis, cruise lines were shunned from bailouts, instead heading to bond and stock markets for much needed cash to survive. But that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t cause tremendous hardship if they were to go under.
Beyond the cruise lines themselves, there are hotels, restaurants, and transportation services in port cities that benefit. Places like Galveston and Miami depend heavily on cruising to spur the local economies, which has huge ripple effects.
Meanwhile, there are the hundreds of thousands that work in the industry, ranging from cruise line staff that help you book your trip to the porters that help load bags on the ship.
With so many people whose livelihoods depend — or are majorly impacted — by the cruise industry, the idea that it will simply not return seems unlikely.
Cruises Will Be Better Equipped to Handle Potential Cases
If the coronavirus pandemic taught us anything, it was that many were largely unprepared for the crisis. From lack of testing to protective equipment, it was a struggle to watch the situation unfold and seemingly get worse day after day.
Eventually, however, the world caught up to the outbreak and the shortages were filled. Hopefully in the future the world will be more prepared than ever for outbreaks. Cruise ships should be among the best prepared.
Already moves like increased screening and more sanitation was happening when cruises were suspended. Now the cruise lines are working on policies to ensure better health on cruise ships.
For example, Norwegian announced it is working with the former head of the FDA to determine how to cruise safely in the future. As well, cruise ships have medical facilities and staff that can also help in this situation.
Add to that the strong financial incentive that cruise lines have to keep passengers safe and healthy, and it’s easy to see why cruise ships should be well situated to handle any potential cases and put passengers’ fears at ease.
Cruise Lines Have Time Due to Cash
For months the cruise lines have gone without sailing, slamming their businesses. That’s led to speculation of financial troubles, including Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. saying it would have trouble continuing as a “going concern” unless it were able to raise funds.
The next day, it raised over $2 billion.
The company now says it has enough capital to continue for 18 months without any revenue.
Similarly, Carnival and Royal Caribbean have raised billions to keep themselves in business while cruises aren’t sailing.
That means even if the shutdown lasts for months… or even into next year… the cruise lines currently have the capacity to withstand that storm and come back after the crisis.