Carnival sinks Princess Cruises for two months
The Carnival Cruise Lines-owned Princess Cruises will halt global operations of its 18 cruise ships for two months, a move that will rock the tourism-dependent Caribbean, including Jamaica.
It is also the first sign of a major crack in the faltering cruise industry arising from the dreaded COVID-19. Trinidad and Tobago confirmed its first case yesterday and the government of the twin-island republic has suspended the arrival of cruise ships for the remainder of the 2019-2020 cruise season.
The decision by Princess Cruises came after two of its ships carried passengers who were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in addition to bad publicity, which also saw the grounding of its Diamond Princess, which is currently docked in California unloading passengers.
Calls yesterday to local tourism officials, including Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett, for a response went unanswered.
However, business interests and other stakeholders who have already been feeling the pinch from the rapid downturn in the sector say they are bracing for the worst.
“While Princess Cruises doesn’t make up the bulk of our cruise itinerary, we have to remember that its parent company is Carnival Cruise Lines – the largest cruise company in the world,” explained Ravi Daswani, a senior director of the Royal Shop chain of duty-free stores.
“What is clear is that things have the potential to spiral out of control, and we simply have to play the hand we are dealt. Cruise shipping has always been a great complement to stopover arrivals, and if that is affected, our economy will be affected.”
Garfield Dussard, owner of Garfield Diving, with operations in Ocho Rios, Falmouth and Montego Bay, agreed.
“My business is dependent mainly cruise shipping, and words are difficult to find to describe what has been happening,” he told The Gleaner.
“I know this is beyond our control, and, of course, no fault of anybody. The Government’s response has been commendable, and we can only sit back and hope for the best. This coronavirus is something that nobody saw coming.”
Meanwhile, in another potential body blow to the sector, Viking announced it would also suspend all cruises until May 1. Viking has 16 ocean-going ships and more than 70 vessels overall.
US TRAVEL ADVISORY
No part of the travel industry has been hit harder by the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, than the cruise industry. Demand for cruises has fallen dramatically. Health authorities have urged the elderly not to take cruises. Only a few days ago, the United States Department of State issued a travel advisory, advising Americans to avoid cruise vacations in its entirety.
“The danger here is that a lot of other cruise ships could follow Princess’ decision,” argued Marcus King, a business operator at the Ocho Rios Fishing Village. “We are in a period of uncertainty, and heaven knows what will follow.”
Princess Cruises said that it would suspend operations within the next four days. It will, however, continue to sail through the end of its ships’ current itineraries so that passengers’ travel arrangements are not disrupted. Current voyages that are under way and extend beyond March 17 will end at what the company determines to be the most convenient location for guests to disembark.
Shares of parent company Carnival Corp plunged 17 per cent in afternoon trading on the news. Shares were already down 57 per cent so far this year through Wednesday’s close. Its ships are still sailing.