Charlie Funk
Charlie Funk

I need a mulligan for 2020. I don't have that many orbits of the sun left, and this past year should not count for (or against) anyone.

There were wonderful moments that my wife Sherrie and I weren't able to celebrate in person. One of our granddaughters was married, and a second had her first child, a girl, on Dec. 22. That makes five great-grandchildren so far (I'm old).

And a fair number of not-so-good moments. A granddaughter who graduated from nursing school just over a year ago was assigned to the ER in January and the Covid floor in March. She contracted the disease and survived.

A daughter's home took a bad hit from the tornado that struck Nashville on March 3. It did over $150,000 in damage, but it could have been worse: the homes on both sides of her were destroyed. One of our grandsons living there sustained only a minor injury, but PTSD is real and alive and well.

Our home was struck by an intense storm characterized as a derecho with estimated 80 mph winds that resulted in extensive roof damage and a dozen leaks. The good news is that the roof was 13 years old and close to end-of-life, anyway, so we have a new roof (after paying a several thousand-dollar deductible).

I had my 16th surgery in 14 years, and after a rough recovery, still ongoing, the back pain that left me barely able to walk is gone.

I took up two new hobbies, knife-making and leather work, and both provide an outlet for artistic expression while creating attractive and useful pieces.

Two surveys and two focus groups that Sherrie and I conducted in May and June showed the American public reticent to resume cruising until three conditions were satisfied. Foremost was development and widespread use of an effective vaccine. Not surprisingly, the others were Covid case reduction to zero and reaching the end of the second wave of the disease.

Working with regulatory as well as medical models, we concluded that cruise vacations, ocean or river, would not resume until July or August 2021. We hunkered down and have marshaled resources to survive until the fourth quarter of 2021. This has been our messaging since June.

A great moment for 2020 was the announcement of not one, but two vaccines that are 95%-plus effective. The phones began ringing in late December, and we believe we see the start of a booking surge.

Perhaps the best news of all was passage of a relief bill with substantial funding for small businesses. It wasn't the Restart bill that I've highlighted before (in my columns of Oct. 5, Oct. 12, Nov. 16) but more like a continuation of the PPP program. It caps loans at $2 million and makes them available only to borrowers with fewer than 300 employees that experienced at least a 25% drop in sales from a year earlier in at least one quarter.

We have enough liquidity from forgivable loans or loans at low interest rates to get by until March. The new stimulus, with careful management, will carry us to October.

Suppliers have stepped up, as well. 

Royal Caribbean Group will offer no-interest loans to agencies. This is effectively an advance on commissions and reflects the genius of Royal's staff and the corporation's DNA-level commitment to the retail channel.

Have there been bumps? Oh, yeah. Are we beaten? Not a chance. 

It's like this: I am put in mind of some of the lyrics of the classic Bobby Bare tune, "The Winner," and I urge you to search for it and give it a listen. We are "The Winner." Hang tough. 

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