Cruise ship executives encouraged by forward bookings

Demand for cruises to The Bahamas remains high for whenever cruise sailing resumes later this year, executives from Carnival Corporation said yesterday.

Carnival’s Vice President, Global Ports and Caribbean Government Relations Marie McKenzie said The Bahamas remains a valued destination for Carnival Corporation and even though sailings are on pause, the company’s outlook is strong and demand is encouraging.

“The question everywhere is when will you start sailing. We are starting operations in Europe, but being that The Bahamas is in the Americas and the Caribbean, I know that one would want to know when do we start there. I’ll say this, we do not know at this time. We are working with the CDC to determine what guidelines we can operate under from the US. And while we have had some discussions with them ongoing, we are currently waiting to get final clarity on the guidelines under which we can sail,” she said during a business update and briefing with Guardian Business yesterday.

“In the meantime, our company has taken a position where we have already started looking at ways we can start operating and implementing necessary measures onboard our ships in order to do so. So we are proactive preparing to operate but still waiting for final guidance from the CDC. The other thing I will say is, while we are working as a company, we are also working in partnerships with some of the other cruise lines in the industry.”

The Mardi Gras will be able to accommodate more than 5,200 passengers and will be the first ship in the Americas to operate completely on liquefied natural gas (LNG). Senior Vice President of Global Port & Destination Development Giora Israel said based on bookings so far for Carnival’s line of ships, the ship is the most popular and in demand in the history of the corporation.

He said The Bahamas will be one of the first countries to be called upon when sailings resume.

“The three major home ports and the source of traffic to The Bahamas are the three ports in Florida, from north to south, Port Canaveral, Port Everglades and Miami,” he said.

“When we advanced the Mardi Gras to operate out of Port Canaveral and that’s where this ship will be going to, we had the best booking day in the middle of COVID-19 in July. We had the best reservation day in new ships in Carnival history. Let’s move onto October. In October we announced another Carnival LNG new class ship that will be operated out of Miami and guess what, that ship had the second busiest day of reservations in the history of the company.

“This symbolizes that the demand is there, the demand for warm water and the Caribbean itinerary is there. That’s why we are encouraged by this demand.”

According to its latest data, as of December, Carnival’s cumulative advanced bookings for the second half of 2021 were historic and cumulative advanced bookings for the first half of 2022 were ahead of 2019.

“The company’s forward booking trends for the 12-month period ending May 2022 demonstrate long-term demand for cruising, with minimal advertising and marketing. As of November 30, 2020, about 45 percent of guests affected by schedule changes have received enhanced future cruise credits (FCCs) and the remaining have requested refunds,” the corporation stated in its recent industry news and updates report.

“About 60 percent of bookings taken during the fourth quarter of 2020 for fiscal year 2021 were new bookings versus FCC re-bookings.”

Israel said the industry has reached a pivotal point where it is optimistic about what lies ahead, despite the severe challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Obviously COVID-19 has created a situation where it is very difficult for the cruise industry and for us as well. We are at an extraordinary point where we clearly see the road ahead. We are very excited about this opportunity, the booking and the outlook and demand are very encouraging. And I think the most important thing is that we have very strong confidence,” he said.

“We have raised capital and new debt during this period to allow us to operate with almost zero income for the past year, so that we are strong and able to restart very soon and are able to service our customers around the world.”

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Paige McCartney

Paige joined The Nassau Guardian in 2010 as a television news reporter and anchor. She has covered countless political and social events that have impacted the lives of Bahamians and changed the trajectory of The Bahamas. Paige started working as a business reporter in August 2016. Education: Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2006 with a BA in Radio and Television News

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