Carnival chief knows the world is counting on cruising

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Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, left, and Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald at the virtual CruiseWorld 2020.
Travel Weekly editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, left, and Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald at the virtual CruiseWorld 2020.

Speaking to hundreds of travel advisors in virtual attendance at Travel Weekly's CruiseWorld 2020, Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald discussed the impact of the global cruise shutdown on the various stakeholders that depend on cruising, including destinations and travel advisors.

Donald said that in many destinations where businesses depend on cruise tourism, many people have no alternative source of income and government assistance is very limited. 

"All we can do is be supportive as we can and try to get us back to sailing safely and appropriately as soon as possible," he said. "Those nations are resilient, and they will weather the storm.  People want to travel, they want those experiences and to visit those destinations and what they have to offer."

Related report: Cruise restart pushed to February? Timing's not a surprise to some

In the interim, he understands the toll that the global cruise shutdown has had.  

"Right now, and it's true for travel professionals the world over and our company, we have to weather the storm and do what we have to do to survive, so that when the opportunity presents itself, we can all thrive again," he said. 

Donald lamented the many travel advisors that "were not able to weather the storm and had to find alternatives" and said he hopes they return to the industry at some point. For those who "found a way to manage thought these trying times," he said the brands will "continue to offer encouragement and [as much] support as we could with regards to FCC [future cruise credits] and commissions, etc."

"We believe in the travel professional community, we need the travel professional community; there's no question about that," he said. "And we need it to not only survive but be strong going forward." 

Donald said that while overall 2021 booking trends are comparable to the past in terms of where people are booking, longer cruises and world cruises have suffered disproportionally in the near term. An encouraging sign, he said, is that the brands are seeing a lot of new bookings. 

"It's not just people who had canceled itineraries and are taking advantage of FCCs, it's new bookings," he said. "The further out the stronger it is because people believe the world will have dealt with [Covid-19] by then."

In terms of the 18 ships the Carnival Corp. brands have sold, Donald said that the company has to "survive now to thrive later." 

He said that between accelerated ship retirements, ships on order being delayed due to shipyard shutdowns, Carnival Corp. capacity will not likely return to pre-pandemic levels for the next four to five years. 

"Capacity will be back up to what it was pre-Covid probably in the 2024 or 2025 time period," Donald said. 

As to when cruising might return to pre-Covid conditions, Donald estimates it could take two to three years for that to happen, from when service resumes. 

"But In terms of guests' experience and excitement and all that, we'll be feeling that early on once we restart," he said. "And there will be plenty of capacity to carry excited guests later in the '21 and '22 time frame."

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