2020 saw a nearly complete halt to cruising around the world. As travel by ship is no longer a thing (thanks airplanes!) large ocean going vessels are used for perpetual pleasure cruises that go to interesting places best seen by water. Tropical areas, arctic areas, and popular tourist destinations are the usual cruise routes. Cruising is a great way to see the world and do so in tremendous luxury. Cruise ships offer everything from world class dining and shows to casinos, on board water parks, and shopping.
Then Covid came and it all stopped.
Cruising on Empty
Cruise ship companies scrambled to deal with the fallout from the virus. The first crisis was repatriating passengers who needed to get back to their home countries as nations closed their borders to travelers. This coordination was difficult as different nations had different plans for getting their citizens home. The crews of these ships were abandoned on board these ships for months and toward the end after their contracts were ended, they were stuck on ships without pay. As these ships finally emptied, cruise ship companies were left with empty ships and few places to store them. Ships only make money when they are moving with passengers. Cruise ship companies started to stash these ships all over the world either in berths or off the coast of countries where they could be resupplied.
Different countries have taken different ideas with banning cruising which is considered non-essential travel. In the US, cruising is banned until October 31st but the ban may be extended. Cruising companies have booked cruises for November in anticipation of the ban being lifted. However, as cases in the US increase and most other countries have restricted US travel, the ban may be extended. The CDC does this almost days before hand so it could be extended and this information may be out of date when you read it depend on the CDC.
The cruise industry has been hit hard by these bans but so have the people that work for them and all the industries that depend on them. Many tropical island destinations depend on tourism at their primary industry. With cruising out, their economies are hurting as well. People who work on cruise ships ranging from cooks to entertainers are suddenly out of work. It might seem frivolous but cruising is a big industry and like the rest of hospitality, Covid-19 has taken a huge bite out of it.
Will Cruise Lines Survive?
One of the biggest questions around the implosion of the cruise industry is whether most cruise lines will survive. MSC and others have already entered into receivership or bankruptcy. Carnival, the largest cruise company, has closed some of its overseas subsidiaries. There is major consolidation happening in the cruise industry, especially in the Australian market. It’s unlikely that Carnival will go under but smaller companies like Aida, MSC and some of the smaller European companies might not make it out of this crisis. They will either collapse completely or they will be snatched up at rock bottom prices by a larger company. Most companies will survive but the industry will be forever changed.
Headed for Scrap
As a cost-cutting exercise, many companies, even Carnival are dumping their older ships. Most cruise ships have a 20-40 year life span. The ship that sank the Andrea Doria in 1957 is still sailing. Many passengers love the older and smaller ships and they can often take itineraries that are more remote than the larger ships that must stick to larger ports. Despite all this, cruise companies are off-loading ships at a rapid pace. Turkish shipyards that specialize in breaking up ships for scrap are packed full with cruise ships right now and construction on new ships has ground to a halt with only a few being completed. Much like the airlines, cruise ship companies are cutting the fat and pairing down their offerings to adjust to the post-covid world.
Is it over for cruising? Will you be taking a cruise anytime soon? We highly recommend you watch any of the above channels for the latest updates and let us know if you’re planning on booking any cruises anytime soon.