Wednesday 7 April 2021 6:36 pm

Cunard and Princess owner Carnival refuses to rule out vaccine passports for cruises

Cruise operator Carnival has refused to rule out making vaccine passports mandatory for those looking set sail on their next holiday.

Cruise ships in the United States are currently under a ‘no-sail order’ due to coronavirus-related restrictions.

Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corp, said the cruise operator was working with the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on a “practical” approach to resuming voyages, but refused to rule out mandatory vaccine passports for passengers.

The CEO said recent guidance from the CDC – including ensuring all passengers are vaccinated – was “largely unworkable”.

Rivals Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Group have said they would restart sailing directly from the Caribbean later this year with vaccinated passengers.

On this side of the pond, Carnival said some of its brands would set sail around the UK coast this summer.

P&O Cruises UK will sail around UK coastal waters from June, followed by Cunard and Princess Cruises in July.  

Choppy waters

The cruise operator, which is dual-listed in the US and UK, today revealed it lost $2bn in the first quarter of its 2021 financial year.

However, cumulative advanced bookings for full year 2022 are ahead of what they were in 2019, despite minimal advertising or marketing.

Hargreaves Lansdown equity analyst Laura Hoy said it was unsurprising Carnival had suffered a big loss, given how expensive it is to maintain cruise ships that have not set sail for a year.

“Carnival’s 2022 bookings are currently ahead of pre-pandemic levels—proving that demand for cruising isn’t completely dead,” she continued, “now the group just has to stay afloat long enough to capture it.

“Six months ago, it was touch-and-go as to whether Carnival would be able to stem the steady flow of cash overboard. But cash-burn is expected to come in at $550m per month as cruising returns over the summer and with $11.5bn in available cash at its disposal, Carnival doesn’t appear to be at risk of a near-term liquidity issue.”

Hoy said it was unlikely to be “smooth sailing” from here onwards, as the ships may have to operate below capacity to allow for social distancing, and that compliance with public health regulators would inevitably be expensive.