A top Carnival Corporation executive said the cruise line is looking closely at how destinations like The Bahamas are managing their response to COVID-19, stating that they are watching as “countries open, then close”.
Vice President of Global Ports and Caribbean Government Relations at Carnival Corporation Marie McKenzie said a lot of effort is being placed on communicating with governments in the region and that there are concerns about how health and safety protocols will impact passenger experiences.
“We’re also speaking with governments including your government. As we watch the world open then close, open then close, we’re looking at the protocols that are coming out for land-based tourism and what that might mean for cruise. For us as a company, while we do have internal discussions with scientists to really understand the virus and what it means and how we will live with it, if we do have to – particularly operating without a vaccine – while we’re doing that we also believe you have to pause,” she said.
“Because the CDC has also extended our no sail order through October 1 and while many destinations are opening for land-based tourism we can’t sail. We can’t sail right now and we’re cautious about committing completely to any set of protocols today not knowing when we will sail. Because by the way, even though they have extended the no sail order, it does not indicate that we can start sailing October 2.
“So that being said, yes, there are concerns about what happens when we take our guests to destinations because we all understand that as concerned as people are about what’s happening on a ship, they are definitely concerned about the destination as well and the entire experience. So until we’ve aligned with the CDC and we clearly understand what their requirements are, we are not inclined to be very definitive today about specifically what protocols we’ll absolutely implement. There are definitely a lot of ideas out there and our general position is, whatever is required by the health authorities, not only in the US but by the destinations that we visit at the time that we must sail, that is what we will adhere to.”
The global cruise industry has been hit particularly hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with Carnival reporting that it has had to reduce operating costs and capital expenditure by $12 billion during this period.
“This has been a very difficult time for us. We have completely shut down operations and are taking in absolutely no revenues and still having operating costs because contrary to what everybody believes, once we still have our ships sitting there, we need minimum manning on these ships to maintain them. We need to provide supplies to the ships for team members onboard, so we’re spending a lot with no revenues. It’s been pretty challenging, but it’s also a time to pause and really think about our business. So we’ve really taken this time to look at our platform globally,” McKenzie said.
“We’re looking across the entire corporation and trying to decide what makes sense as we move out of COVID-19. You may have heard that we announced the sale of 13 ships. We’re getting rid of 13 ships. We’re also taking on new ships still. We actually had nine ships to be delivered before the end of 2021 and we have reduced the new build orders from nine to five, one being the Mardi Gras. Right now that itinerary is out there and I do believe that is slated to go to The Bahamas next year, assuming all goes well with COVID-19.”
Despite these challenges, Carnival indicated in March that the company is still committed to its nearly $200 million cruise port on Grand Bahama.