Amid all the positive signs for cruise growth going into 2020, one thing that remains troubling is the continued low return for savings.
Interest rates continue to be anaemic by historical standards, which should give pause to an industry still dependent to a great degree on seniors.
Unemployment is low, home sales are healthy, inflation subdued, the stock market at record highs. All of those things bode well for cruise sales. But anybody on a fixed income hasn’t gotten a raise for quite a while.
I wrote about this seven years ago, and remarkably little has changed. Yields on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note closed 2012 at 1.76%, and as I write this the yield on the 10-year is currently 1.79%. For savers, it takes a nice sum in the bank or in CDs to be able to afford a cruise on that kind of return.
Interest rates did move up above 3% for a good part of 2018 as the Federal Reserve tried to wean the economy off of artificially low money rates that have been in place since the 2008-09 recession.
But it was forced to back off because of weak economies in Europe. Interest rates in Germany and some other European countries are now negative, which explains why Aida and Costa Cruises have had such a lousy year.
Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald, far right, was joined onstage during the CEO Conversation panel by John Chernesky-the-puppet of Princess Cruises. The session was moderated by editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, seated, left. Photo Credit: Jamie Biesiada
FORT LAUDERDALE — Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald told an audience at CruiseWorld that being the largest cruise company in the world comes with two key advantages — stability and innovation — that help Carnival’s brands deliver industry-leading results.
The company has more than 100 ships, and it operates in every segment and several global source markets. “One of every two people who cruise go with one of our nine brands,” Donald said, which include Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Cunard Line, in addition to the namesake Carnival Cruise Line.
“Because we have such a large portfolio, it’s difficult for anyone thing happening somewhere in the world to take the company down,” Donald said.
Size matters in innovation too. “We have the scale and the capability to take on projects that others can’t,” he said.
A prime example of that is the costly OceanMedallion personalization technology that Carnival developed and rolled out initially on Princess Cruises.
“We invented it,” Donald said. “It’s not off-the-shelf apps.”
Donald ran down a list of developments at various Carnival brands, such as the roller coaster on next year’s Carnival Cruise Line newbuild, the Mardi Gras.
But when he forgot to mention Princess Cruises, a surprise guest made an appearance.
From behind the couch where Arnold was seated, up popped a Muppets-style character designed to look like Princess’ senior vice president of sales and trade marketing, John Chernesky. The puppet ribbed Donald and amused the crowd until the real John Chernesky bounded on stage to complain that the puppet has been impersonating him all over town.
The larger message to the puppet tomfoolery was to billboard the Jim Henson Creature Shop show, called “Inspired Silliness,” that will debut next month on the newest Princess ship, the Sky Princess.
When Donald finally regained the spotlight, he took some time to outline Carnival’s sustainability initiatives and defend the industry’s record.
He said that very little of the estimated 8 million tons of plastics in the ocean comes from ships, much less from cruise ships. “It comes from land; it comes through the rivers and gets into the ocean,” he said, adding, “Having said that, we don’t want anything going in the ocean. He said that Carnival has accelerated existing recycling efforts and processes to eliminate plastics from its waste stream.
Likewise, when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, a Carnival brand was the first to use liquified natural gas (LNG) to provide power in port, and Carnival Corp. will be the first to bring an LNG-powered ship to North America, with the Mardi Gras.
“Ultimately we want to get to zero-emission,” Donald said. But he said cruise emissions are a tiny fraction of the global equation. “The reality is if the cruise industry didn’t exist, you wouldn’t be able to measure the difference in emissions,” he said.
Carnival Corporation has welcomed AIDA Cruises’ new AIDAnova into its fleet today at a celebration in Bremerhaven, Germany, as the world’s first cruise vessel to be powered at sea and in port by liquefied natural gas (LNG).
“AIDAnova is a milestone for our company and the entire cruise industry,” said Michael Thamm, group CEO of Carnival Corporation’s Costa Group – which includes AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises – and Carnival Asia. “With Carnival Corporation pioneering LNG technology, we start a new era of environmentally friendly cruising. It’s important now that the respective infrastructure will be further developed as more and more cruise lines are following our example.”
The largest cruise ship ever built at a German shipyard, AIDAnova also marks an exciting new generation of ships for AIDA Cruises.
AIDAnova set sail today for the Canary Islands to welcome its inaugural guests at Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Spain, embarking on December 19 for a seven-day holiday cruise around the Canary Islands and Madeira.
“I am so pleased about this extraordinary ship, which is another milestone on our steady path to providing sustainable cruises,” said Felix Eichhorn, president of AIDA Cruises, at today’s handover event. “AIDAnova will offer guests entirely new experiences onboard through the further development of the innovative ship designs of AIDAprima and AIDAperla, and many other successful products in the AIDA fleet. With an extraordinary variety of individual vacation options, exciting entertainment and new wellness, fitness and culinary offerings, we are providing new and exciting reasons for people to enjoy a cruise vacation, one of the vacation industry’s fastest-growing sectors.”
In 2021 and 2023, two additional ships from the new AIDA Cruises generation of vessels will join the AIDA fleet, in addition to new LNG-powered ships on order for Costa Cruises, P&O Cruises in the UK, and Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises.
Following today’s launch of AIDAnova, Carnival Corporation has an additional 10 next-generation “green” cruise ships on order that will be powered by LNG.