Will it be about the quantity or the quality, both in terms of numbers and beneficial contribution when cruise ships finally return to Barbados?
Traditionally of course, we usually only see one or maybe two cruise ships arrive weekly during the long summer months, but come November under post pandemic conditions the Bridgetown Port is thriving with a multitude of cruise ships docking with passenger capacities ranging from 150 up to 6,000 persons plus crew.
Last week the world’s largest cruise line, Carnival Corporation reported a net loss of a staggering US$2.2 billion for the fourth quarter of their 2020 financial year. Their website boasts ‘the cruise lines within our portfolio include the most recognised brands in North America, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Australia – areas that account for 85 percent of the world’s cruise passengers’.
Among those brands is Princess, which had no less than seven* of its ships (Grand, Diamond, Coral, Sun, Ruby, Pacific and Regal) involved in serious Covid-19 outbreaks and another two (Emerald and Royal) with suspected cases or given no-sail orders. *source: Wikipedia. Overall, as a consequence of the pandemic, so far Carnival has ‘accelerated the removal of 19, older less efficient ships, 15 of which have already left the fleet’.
To put that in overall perspective, those retired 19 ships represent approximately 13 per cent of pre-pause capacity and three per cent of operating income in 2019. Despite the groups astronomical losses, its chief executive (CEO), Arnold Donald, remains remarkably upbeat , stating ‘2020 has proven to be a true testament to the resilience of our company’.
Adding ‘We took aggressive actions to implement and optimize a complete pause in our guest cruise operations across all brands globally and developed protocols to begin our staggered resumption, first in Italy for our Costa brand, then followed by Germany for our Aida brand’.
‘We are now working diligently towards resuming operations in Asia, Australia, the United Kingdom and United States over the course of 2021’.
‘We are well positioned to capitalize on pent-up demand and to emerge a leaner, more efficient company, reinforcing our industry-leading position’.
At this stage no specific mention of the Caribbean has been made, which for decades has produced their single largest source for sales and passenger numbers, but Mr. Donald is quoted as stating ‘we are working toward having all our ships back in service by the end of the year’.
Clearly, this may encourage our tourism policymakers to plan for the upcoming winter 2021/22 season and to finally evaluate exactly how ‘we’ as a country can justify the massive taxpayer subsidies already spent on our local cruise infrastructure over the past decades, to ensure this ‘investment’ becomes truly cost-effective?
Will the cruise companies remember the overwhelming support given to repatriate passengers and crew during the most challenging times of their entire history, or will this be lost in the wind or stormy seas?
To ensure accuracy, I submitted this column to the media department at Carnival and Princess for any corrections and/or comments prior to submission.
Roger Frizzell, Carnival Corporation’s Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, was gracious enough to respond personally with the following message:
‘We are extremely thankful and greatly appreciative of the assistance and support provided to our cruise lines and crew members during this difficult time’.