GAINING STEAM: Carnival seeing strong cruise demand despite minimal marketing

GAINING STEAM: Carnival seeing strong cruise demand despite minimal marketing
Two ships docked at Nassau's cruise port. (PHOTO: CRUISEFEVER.NET)

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Carnival cruise line executives said yesterday they are encouraged by the strong demand for cruises, while noting they are still not in a position to say when they will resume sailing.

Carnival Vice President, Global Ports and Caribbean Government Relations Marie McKenzie said: “We have canceled all sailings through a certain date. That is an indication of what we are working with at this time.

“We are very hesitant to put a date out there because we really want to see what comes out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“We are pretty far along in terms of our overall preparation. We are still awaiting clearance from the CDC. While we have had discussions, we are still waiting on the guidelines under which we can operate.”

After the industry had been effectively shut down due to the pandemic, the CDC last October issued a Framework for conditional Sailing Order which introduced a phased approach for the safe and responsible resumption of passenger cruises.

According to Carnival, cumulative advanced bookings for the first half of 2022 are ahead of a very strong 2019, with its forward booking trends for the 12-month period ending May 2022 showing long-term demand for cruising with minimal advertising and marketing.

McKenzie noted The Bahamas remains a valued partner to the company, which is well-positioned to weather the impact of the pandemic.

She noted The Bahamas is likely to benefit from short cruises from South Florida once the company resumes sailing.

According to Senior Vice President of Global Port and Destination Development Giora Israel, the company has taken significant actions to preserve cash and secure additional financing to increase its liquidity during the pause in guest operations.

Since March 2020, the company has raised $22.5 billion through a series of financial transactions. Carnival Corp ended the year with $9.5 billion in cash and the liquidity in place to sustain the business throughout 2021, even in a zero-revenue environment.

The company expects to retire 19 total ships, 15 of which have already left the fleet, as part of accelerated efforts to retire less-efficient ships that were already scheduled to exit.

Israel noted that while Nassau is a strong brand, the cruise port destination lacked activities to entice passengers off the cruise ships.

While acknowledging the Nassau cruise port redevelopment project as a positive, he said more is needed to boost the destination’s attractiveness to cruise passengers.

“It’s great to enhance the arrivals experience. We have said to governments over the years that Nassau needs more activities to keep people coming back over and over again,“ he said.