Royal Caribbean will resume cruises in phases across its various cruise line subsidiaries with a prominent focus on safety, security and health, but the cruise industry will need to adjust to a ‘new normal’.
These were the comments made by Royal Caribbean Cruises Chairman and CEO Richard Fain during the company’s Q1 earnings call Wednesday, where he also announced a US $1.2-billion loss for the quarter.
Fain said the company has assembled a team of experts to develop a four-step program aimed at upgrading screening of passengers prior to boarding; enhanced processes and procedures aboard; a special focus on destinations being in compliance; and procedures for dealing with exceptions.
He said that Royal Caribbean would only resume cruises once it was “absolutely ready to do so”, once its Healthy Return to Service Program, with special emphasis on safety, security and health, was fully developed and implemented.
While Fain insisted that travel and tourism will grow in a post-COVID world, he said everything will be different from before and passengers and cruise lines must adjust to a new reality.
He said that all activities, everything we do, will have changed when Royal Caribbean Cruises and its subsidiaries return to service. This will possibly include the wearing of masks, the closure of the cruise ship buffet, and social distancing throughout each ship.
Jason Liberty, CFO and senior vice president, noted that Royal Caribbean’s newer ships only need to be 30% occupied to break-even, compared to 50% for its older vessels.
With lockdowns in Europe and China being eased, Michael Bayley, president of the Royal Caribbean International brand, said he anticipates these regions being the first for Royal Caribbean to resume cruising.
Fain added that he expects a gradual start up with fewer ships in drive-to markets to begin with and that the traffic would evolve and grow from there. Royal Caribbean has previously indicated that booking demand for 2021 has seen a strong rebound.
The cruise company also provided an update on crew repatriations. Fain said that in the two months since suspending operations, Royal Caribbean has been working tirelessly to repatriate guests and crew.
It’s a mammoth task as the crew are from more than 100 countries around the world, with widely different safety protocols and travel restrictions.
There are currently nine Royal Caribbean ships underway with more than 10,000 crew aboard, transporting them home.