No Carnival on the seas for Jamaica?
Royal Caribbean, MSC and Norwegian (NCL) have already submitted temporary schedules for their return to Jamaica, but the world’s largest cruise ship operator, Carnival, is yet to tender its intention to the Port Authority of Jamaica (PAJ).
Reports are that three cruise lines are currently in ongoing dialogue with the Government and its agencies, but Carnival, which is reportedly selling 18 of its ships and sending home thousands of employees, has options of docking in several other islands and is not making any commitments to Jamaica.
The news comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) seems set to lift its no-sail order, which was implemented in March as COVID-19 spiralled across the globe. The CDC’s decision is being propelled by a 69-page recommendation tagged ‘Healthy Sail’, which advises cruise operators to advance their public-health response, improving safety and achieving readiness for the resumption of operations during the pandemic.
One of the suggestions is the pretesting of guests and staff for the coronavirus before they board vessels. Those allowed on must present a negative test and will likely be retested during the cruise.
“Once the CDC gives the green light, Carnival will certainly put one of its ships in the water,” an industry expert is predicting, noting that the Carnival Corporation has nine brands under its umbrella operating in the industry.
And although the cruise line’s stocks are down, with shares sinking by 15 per cent last week, and the company reportedly losing close to US$800 million per month, experts say Carnival is playing it safe and retooling while selling assets.
“They are retooling while selling assets, taking the cash and financing larger more efficient COVID-designed ships. More capacity, less overheads, more efficiency,” said the expert, who requested anonymity.
While the cruise lines get into their bubble, some of the island’s transportation operators, who are dependent on both land-based and cruise ship business, are fighting to survive. Even if passengers return in the next three months, the numbers will be at a 30 per cent average.
Normal conditions may not resurface for another 24 months.
In the meantime, if there are 1,500 passengers on board a ship, only about 1,000 will disembark in the ports, and they will only travel with COVID-compliant companies.
With no business in sight, the transportation operators tell The Gleaner that their banks are pressuring them for loan payments as moratoriums end this month.
Many will shrink, lose their buses, file for bankruptcy, or merge, industry insiders have said.