The cruise industry has returned to normal in many ways, but it hasn''t been a straight line recovery.
When Royal Caribbean International (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report, Carnival Cruise Lines (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report began sailing again from United States ports in July 2021, it drastically reduced capacity. Both cruise lines have slowly increased capacity, but also have to deal with constant covid rules and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.
The rules have improved. Mask requirements have been lifted, but passengers must still prove vaccination and show a negative covid test done no more than two days before a sailing. Capacities have also returned to near-normal on many ships and normal on a few.
The number of potential passengers is declining in part due to vaccination guidelines, but there are a few factors. First, there is demand. That seems to have largely returned, although prices remain depressed at least for some sailings. That''s an encouraging sign for the business as the pool of potential passengers is smaller than it was before the epidemic. Given the fact that vulnerable populations have largely chosen to limit travel.
Covid has a variety of ways to increase passenger capacity. In certain instances, cruise lines have to limit how many passengers are onboard to mitigate spread. At some times, they have been forced to decrease capacity, or even cancel sailings because they don''t have enough crew to handle a full passenger load.
Cancellations are a customer service nightmare, and reduced capacity ensures a better customer experience in some ways (since fewer people will be aboard), which is not an obstacle for the company when capacity limitations are in place while cabins are being sold. It becomes a huge problem when passengers have booked their trips.
When a situation happens, cruise lines must cancel reservations, resulting in a sort of nightmare situation that Norwegian presently faces.
Carnival, a visual source
Crew Shortages Hit the Entire Cruise Industry
Due to staffing shortages, Carnival has had to cancel some cruises and not offer regular events onboard. This has mostly resulted in visa difficulties hampering the ability to get crew members onboard. According to a cruisehive, that''s a problem the Carnival President has been working with US authorities to address the staffing difficulties.
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"In a series of discussions with the US State Department and the US Customs and Border Protection, the company managed to establish several agreements that would alleviate the problem incurred by its ships," the website said.
Crew shortages have also affected Royal Caribbean, although these reports have been more anecdotal based on social media reports, rather than the cruise line directly speaking to it.
Norwegian is still facing a crew shortage that has resulted in it cancelling existing reservations.
Norwegian Cancels Some Passengers
Norwegian Cruise Line has struggled to maintain its Pride of America, which sails out of Hawaii. It has already been sailing at half capacity because it only has 550 crew members, according to Travel Weekly.
Despite those restrictions, some guests have still had their reservations cancelled.
"We will assist passengers who have been booked on Pride of America for over-capacity voyages, and we will compensate them for this unfortunate turn of events," a Norwegian spokesperson said.
Impacted passengers will be well compensated. They will receive a full refund, a cruise credit worth 100% of the cruise''s original cost, and coverage of airline cancellation or change fees of up to $500 per person, according to Cruise Industry News.
Crew issues have been exacerbated by the situation onboard for crew members at all three major cruise lines. This included limited (or no) shore leave, very strict social distancing regulations at times, and crew members still wearing masks. Those restrictions have slowly been loosening which would help cruise lines continue to solve this issue.