Looking back at 2020, it’s not surprising that our readers voraciously consumed news about Covid-19’s impact on the cruise industry. Here, in no particular order, are the most-read cruise industry articles on TravelWeekly.com.
While there are few surprises, the choices indicate the many ways the prolonged cruise shutdown impacted the industry.
Among the most popular was a late May report that combined separate interviews with two top executives, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain and Carnival Corp. chief Arnold Donald, to provide a look at what a return to service could entail — long before anyone could imagine the cruise industry would still be shut down into 2021. Even then, private islands, shorter sailings and drive markets were predicted to be part of a return-to-service model.
Another top read was a report on an interview of Donald on HBO’s Axios show, one of the first times a cruise executive publicly addressed the financial issues facing the industry and reacted to the controversy around whether cruise companies, which are not based in the U.S., might receive bailout money (Donald said Carnival Corp. wasn’t asking for federal funds). Presciently, Donald said in the interview that while he hoped “this thing is not going to last forever, we have to plan as if it’s going to last all year.”
It also appeared that the ability of cruise lines to withstand a prolonged shutdown was of significance to advisors: One of the most-read stories in 2020 was Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ move in May to pad its liquidity cushion by raising $2.2 billion. It was one of many moves by cruise companies to shore up their liquidity throughout the year and one of the first major marks of confidence in the sector from investors.
Another popular topic was the European Union’s guidelines for the resumption of cruising, which included onboard separation by age group, reduced capacity and Covid testing of all passengers, indicating our readers’ eagerness to understand what Covid-era cruising might be like — at least somewhere — as well as an important milestone in getting the industry moving again.
Three of the top 10 stories were from the early days of the outbreak, when some ships were still at sea but having trouble finding ports in which to disembark, while others were dealing with Covid outbreaks onboard and pleading with ports to accept them.
An expectedly popular story was about the Oct. 30 announcement from the CDC that it was dropping the No Sail Order and implementing a Conditional Sailing Order. While the change would not mean that cruise ships would not launch from U.S. ports anytime soon, it at least — finally — provided a path to the resumption of cruising.
Among the recent entrants to the year’s most-read stories is a topic that is sure to be on travelers’ minds as Covid-19 vaccines roll out: The report of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio saying that the cruise company was looking at whether it can require cruise passengers to be vaccinated.
Even articles not directly related to Covid were, like nearly everything in 2020, certainly tangential, such as this report on the many changes in cruise industry leadership. For an industry in which C-suite doors often bear the same names for decades, cruise lines last year saw an executive shake-up that may be unparalleled.