Larger cruise ships on local deployments expected to be first to return

Deck Plans | Azamara

Larger cruise ships with local deployments will be the first to come back on sale following Covid-19, the former boss of Azamara has predicted.

Larry Pimentel, who stepped aside from his role as president and chief executive in April as the line made plans to survive the pandemic, said he expected older, smaller ships with international deployments to “sit on the sidelines simply because of the air travel” as travel resumes.

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, he said: “Think about taking a 10, 12 or 15-hour flight in coach and the denseness that you’d find on these carriers. I’m not going to do that at the moment.

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Webcast: 'It's a matter of choice, we have to choose to persist ...

“We’re going to find big ships with local deployments are the first to come back,” Pimentel said. “You’re probably going to find short rotations out of the States and you’ll probably get three or four-day rotations going to private islands. Why? Private islands can secure the safety and health in all areas without a bunch of nonsensical politics layered in it, which makes things even more complex and, frankly, angers a lot of people.”

Pimentel said small luxury vessels sailing to less crowded destinations may also come back sooner, but said: “We still have an issue with social distancing in an industry that was all about the connection on the ships, so herein lies a paradoxical sort of scenario.”

Pimentel predicted many ships would not come back into the sector at as line battle with cash flow issues.

“Cruise lines need the cash right now,” he said, noting that the only income lines are bringing in is onboard revenue as cabins on 2021 sailings will be filled up with people who deferred from this year and used their future cruise credits to rebook. “So the cruise industry is going to have a terrible 2020, and a terrible economic 2021.”

Pimentel said: “The ships that come back are likely to fill up as there won’t be as many ships operating. Let’s face it, there will be some ships that will sit in the sidelines that won’t come back to the industry. The whole industry closed down in about three weeks. There is no way in hell we’re coming back in three weeks or even three months.”

He also predicted that “new cruise ship orders will slow so significantly that it will almost seem like they are stopping altogether, compared to we’ve seen over the last couple of years”.

“I fully expect a lot of options not to be secured,” he said. “This [recovery from the pandemic] is not months, this is a multi-year process.”

He pointed out that there are 19 new ocean ships on order this year, adding: “That’s a lot of vessels and right now, who needs more capacity? Nobody. But in the future, demand will be there. I’ve learned this about the consumer – once they feel even a little bit comfortable, and the value seems there, they will book.”

When the Major Cruise Lines Plan to Restart Service

Carnival Splendor

The major cruise lines are planning to start operations again this summer.

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line, in an update, said it intends to start cruising again with some ships in North America starting on August 1, while other itineraries and ships are projected to start service again later this year. Carnival plans to have eight ships in service from Miami, Port Canaveral and Galveston on short cruises.

Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean announced it had extended its suspension of sailing for its global fleet through June 11, 2020.

The company said it plans to return to service on June 12, 2020, with some previously announced exceptions.

The most crew is also being sent home.

MSC Cruises

MSC Cruises announced a further extension of the halting of all its new cruise departures fleetwide through to July 10.

MSC Cruises USA is offering guests affected by this measure a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) where they have the opportunity to transfer the full amount paid for their cancelled cruise plus an additional 25 per cent credit to a future cruise of their choice, on any ship and any itinerary, departing on or before December 31, 2021.

Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Cruise Line announced in late April an extension of its pause of service through the end of June. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings recently raised enough capital to keep it going in a zero-revenue situation through early 2021.

Costa Cruises

Costa ships are out of service through early July at this point.

Princess Cruises

Princess Cruises, in a recent update, cancelled the remainder of its summer season. 

AIDA Cruises

All AIDA sailings through June 30 are currently cancelled.

Celebrity Cruises

Royal Caribbean, which owns Celebrity, announced it had extended its suspension of sailing for its global fleet through June 11, 2020.

Holland America Line

Holland America Line has extended its pause of global cruise operations and cancel all Alaska, Europe and Canada/New England cruises for 2020, according to a press release.

In addition, Amsterdam will not operate the 79-day Grand Africa Voyage from Boston, Massachusetts, to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, that was scheduled to depart on Oct. 3, 2020.

TUI Cruises

German brand TUI Cruises has hit pause through June 11, in line with Royal Caribbean, which is a partner in TUI Cruises in a joint venture arrangement.

Marella Cruises

Should it be safe to set sail, Marella Cruises will commence its summer 2020 program in July 2020, with three of its five ships sailing. More details here.

Bahamas Paradise

Sailings will resume onboard Grand Celebration on June 13 and onboard Grand Classica on July 10, according to a press release.


Hurtigruten is planning for a gradual restart of operations on the Norwegian coast. The first planned departure will be Finnmarken from Bergen on June 16.

China could be first for cruise return

Shanghai at night photo credit Dave Jones

China could be one of the first destinations that Carnival Corporation resumes sailings to, since it has already recommenced social gathering, according to chief executive Arnold Donald.

The boss of the nine-brand cruising giant said: “The most important thing affecting our decision-making is that as long as there’s no social gathering, we are not able to cruise. Cruise, by definition, is a social gathering. When society is ready for social gathering, then we can talk about cruising.

“We are hoping it will be sooner rather than later but we won’t be driven by what we want to do, but by what society is prepared to do.”

And Donald said: “China has resumed some social gathering and it’s possible that China could be somewhere that cruise may resume first. Logically, because they are moving to a social gathering already and other areas of Asia are handling it [Covid-19] well, it could be a possibility that it may be the first place, but we don’t know yet.”

He pointed out that a lot would depend on whether China and other countries would accept cruise passengers.

“There is a lot of evaluation going on, but the world is not yet aligned around the epidemiology of this virus. There are still debates on-going about testing etc. The world’s scientific and medical community are pulling this all together and once there’s a better understanding of this virus, then we can engineer specific steps and actions.”

Donald predicted a staggering return to worldwide cruising.

“I doubt all destinations will open simultaneously. Different countries will have different protocols and compliance. So there will be some changes to our business model short-term and certainly, for the first three months, there will be changes to itineraries to some degree.

“But the long-term business model is secure. As the world overcomes this pandemic and it goes into the background or is not around at all, then we’ll return to normal. Over time, we’re going to have a great cruise industry again.

“Once this particular storm has passed, we’ll be able to continue to do what we love, and that’s to take guest cruising all over the world.”