A full cruise recovery? Opinions vary on when that might happen

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Ken Muskat, COO of MSC Cruises, seen here at right, told travel advisors during a CruiseWorld panel that he expects "the full fleet sailing by the end of summer '21."
Ken Muskat, COO of MSC Cruises, seen here at right, told travel advisors during a CruiseWorld panel that he expects "the full fleet sailing by the end of summer '21."

During Travel Weekly's CruiseWorld this week, top-level cruise line executives have been asked when the cruise industry might begin to resemble what it was prepandemic.

The answers differed depending on the criteria by which that was measured.

Ken Muskat, COO of MSC Cruises, told travel advisors to expect "the full fleet sailing by the end of summer '21. We're not slowing down by any means. I'm excited we've proven to be a leader in this ramp-up and restart."

Muskat added that the restart will be done "slowly and through strict health and safety protocols. We are excited do get all the ships back in the water."

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain, in response to a question from moderator Arnie Weissmann, Travel Weekly's editor in chief, on when Royal will "be back to full deployment," did not give a date.

• Related: Royal will look to expand restart in the Caribbean

"I actually think that it will be faster than people think," he said. "Seeing is believing, and I think you will get a very fast buildup. By the late spring, summer you will see a real groundswell of people coming back. I think it will grow quickly. I won't put a date on it, but it's relatively fast."

Fain said that strong bookings in the spring, summer and beyond "reflects people's eagerness to get back." However, he also said we must get through the current virus surge "before we can get to where we're sailing again."

Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corp., when asked by Weissmann when he thinks cruising will "return to pre-Covid conditions," said that it depends on the criteria and whether it's based on passenger numbers, revenues or other criteria.

Related: Carnival chief knows the world is counting on cruising

"Overall, it will take us two to three years to get back to where we were, depending on when we actually start," Donald said. "We could see it as early as late '22, but more than likely with the retirement of ships and the slow introduction of news ships, if it's back to the level of guests traveling, and that depends on how long the itineraries are -- there are a lot of variables here -- you're probably looking at a 2023 time frame."

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