High demand boosting cruise prices
Increasing demand will continue to drive cruise prices, even as more ships resume operations and the industry recovers from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s the word from William Tatham, vice-president of cruise shipping and marina operations at the Port Authority of Jamaica, who said prices “continue to be high as there is high demand for cruise”, which is compounded by the reduced number of ships in operation.
With Jamaica’s cruise terminals reopening for cruising last August, arrivals have steadily increased, although still lagging behind pre-pandemic levels.
Tatham, in response to Shipping Industry, revealed that there were 226 cruise calls between August 1, 2021, and July 31, 2022. That’s 58 per cent fewer ships when compared to the last similar non-pandemic period – August 1, 2018 to July 31, 2019 – which saw 532 cruise ships calling on local ports.
That notwithstanding, the popular Carnival Cruise Line, which offers regular cruises to the Caribbean, recently reported increased booking activity following a revision of its pre-cruise vaccination and testing requirements.
The new protocols, revealed on August 12, no longer require testing for vaccinated guests on sailings below 16 nights and removed the exemption-request process for unvaccinated guests, who now only require a negative result when boarding. Carnival noted that these measures, which are subject to local destination regulations, are intended to allow more guests to sail.
Carnival President Christine Duffy said while the company’s previous projections were strong, the surge in bookings in the usually quiet mid-August period proves the “pent-up demand for Carnival has not been satisfied, and guests are responding very favourably to our updated protocols”.
Despite the relaxing of COVID-19 vaccination and testing requirements, Tatham said cruise ships continue to implement measures to limit risk to passengers and crew. “With the end of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) order, most onboard COVID-related protocols have been removed, although most crew still wear masks and regular hand sanitising is still encouraged,” he said.
Previously, the CDC – the national public health agency of the United States, a large market for cruise passengers – included cruise travel in its list of travel health notices. Its removal in March signalled a reprieve for the industry, which was all but shuttered for over a year due to lockdowns and pandemic restrictions at the onset of COVID-19.
In removing the warning, the CDC notes that the risk of transmission remains, but “travellers will make their own risk assessment when choosing to travel on a cruise ship, much like they do in all other travel settings”.
Even with fewer restrictions, potential cruisers will continue to experience challenges when making bookings, with no immediate resolution on the horizon. Tatham said this is due to “not enough ships in the short term to meet demand”. He added: “Many older ships were either sold or scrapped as a result of the impact of the pandemic.”
However, cruising will move closer towards stability, with the industry now in recovery mode and “very strong demand for cruises and many new ships on order”.