Coronavirus Pandemic Keeps Cruise Lines Moored in Port
By Dr. Kandis Boyd Wyatt
Faculty Member, Transportation and Logistics, American Military University
Recreational travel has experienced a significant financial setback due to the coronavirus pandemic. Amtrak and the airline industry have reported record losses as Americans forego large groups and travel activities.
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According to the U.S. Travel Association, “Through the end of 2020, [its] report estimates $505 billion in losses for the travel industry for a total of $81 billion in lost federal, state and local taxes by the end of 2020. The travel industry is not expected to recover until 2024.”
Summer vacations have shifted from stadium-packed concerts and other events, crowded theme parks and trips to the beach to more intimate gatherings that adhere to social distancing protocols. Private vehicles are not clogging the roads as they usually do during the summer months; yet, there has been a substantial 4000% increase in recreational vehicle use both rented and purchased. However, an area of continued concern, especially in the United States, continues to be the cruise line industry.
Cruise Ship Challenges
Forbes magazine reports that cruise ships have been considered a particular breeding ground for the coronavirus outbreaks since the early days of the pandemic. According to USA Today, the Coast Guard "is tracking 57 cruise ships moored, at anchor, or underway in [the] vicinity of a U.S. port, or with potential to arrive in a U.S. port, with approximately 12,084 crew members." Some countries are refusing repatriation efforts, leaving their citizens remaining onboard in some cases for months long after their cruise date officially ended.
US State Department Policies
The U.S. State Department has been warning since March that “U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship. CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment.”
The State Department also noted that many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking. In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine.
Cruises out of the U.S. remain suspended by order of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recently extended its “No Sail Order” until early October.
Is there a future for the recreational cruise industry? Yes, but not just yet. In recent weeks, there’s been several reports of COVID-19 outbreaks on cruise ships that have attempted to resume operations:
- The first cruise out of Alaska amid the coronavirus pandemic, run by UnCruise Adventures, was cut short after a passenger tested positive for COVID-19.
- Norwegian Cruise Line — Hurtigruten suspended operations after at least 41 passengers and crew contracted COVID-19. Another Norwegian cruise ship, the SeaDream, docked in port and kept passengers confined onboard after a passenger on a previous cruise tested positive for COVID-19.
For those still wanting a vacation at sea, there are options, but each comes with a price. For example, according to Rosemary McClure of the Los Angeles Times, If you want to explore Cabo San Lucas on your own, and want to go first-class, the Azteca II is available through yacht brokerage Worldwide Boat. This slick 163-foot yacht has six staterooms and holds six guests. The tab: $220,000 for a week.” That includes a crew and chef.
Future Cruise Line Plans
For those looking for a more economical option, you’ll have to wait. Norwegian Cruise Line released a plan to return to service, which includes full deployment of the fleet by the second quarter of 2021. The plan includes developing enhanced health and safety protocols, addressing the global availability of ports and travel restrictions, planning sales and marketing to stimulate demand, and anticipating a gradual, phased return to service. This includes reducing sailing capacity to 50 to 60 percent occupancy.
In the meantime, cruise lines will have to reinvent themselves and develop a new structure for recreational activities as they adopt ways to remain competitive in the always precarious travel industry.
About the Author
Dr. Kandis Y. Boyd Wyatt, PMP, is a professor at American Military University and has 20 years of experience managing projects that specialize in supply chain management. She holds a B.S. in meteorology and an M.S. in meteorology and water resources from Iowa State University, as well as a D.P.A. in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.