Coronavirus pandemic

Cruise operators sink into red in first quarter

The Celebrity Infinity Cruise ship returns to PortMiami from a cruise in the Caribbean on March 14, 2020.
The Celebrity Infinity Cruise ship returns to PortMiami from a cruise in the Caribbean on March 14, 2020.PHOTO: AFP

Cruise operators have been badly battered by the coronavirus pandemic amid port closures and travel restrictions that have forced them to suspend sailings globally.

Royal Caribbean Cruises, which suspended operations in March, announced a first-quarter net loss of US$1.4 billion (S$2 billion) last Wednesday.

Chief financial officer Jason Liberty said in an earnings call that the loss was driven by the impact of the outbreak and cancellation of 130 sailings.

Capacity for the year has been reduced by approximately 25 per cent, he said, adding that the firm expects to incur a net loss for the 2020 fiscal year. It has reduced operating expenses by slashing marketing spending and laying off or furloughing staff, he said.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings reported a net income loss of US$1.9 billion in the first quarter, but said it had secured enough funding to withstand more than a year without revenue.

The United States issued a "no sail order" in March, which has been extended till July 24.

Carnival Corp, which owns several ships that suffered outbreaks on board, including the Diamond Princess, reported a US$781 million loss for its fiscal first quarter that ended on Feb 29. It has announced plans to cut jobs, reduce salaries and shorten the work week, Bloomberg reported.

Still, operators say they are optimistic about the future, with strong demand for the year ahead.

A number of cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, have also introduced policies allowing cancellations up to 48 hours before a cruise to provide flexibility.

The Singapore Tourism Board's director of cruise Annie Chang said it is supporting the badly hit industry through various relief measures and working to strengthen consumer confidence and rebuild demand.

The board will also rally regional governments to restore popular South-east Asian itineraries in the recovery phase, she said.

Cruise lines have been growing their presence in the region, and the Republic has a strong foundation as a cruise hub, she noted.

"Singapore remains well poised to capture the demand when it returns, due to our geographical location and good infrastructure," she added.

Tiffany Fumiko Tay

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2020, with the headline 'Cruise operators sink into red in first quarter'. Subscribe