Norwegian, Carnival, Royal Caribbean Still Have a Big Covid Problem

The major cruise lines have an issue that impacts passengers.

In many ways, the cruise industry has returned to normal, but it has not 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 (NCLH) – Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report began sailing again from U.S. ports in July 2021 it was severely lowered capacities. Since those early sailings, the three major cruise lines have slowly raised capacity while also having to deal with ever-changing covid rules/recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control.

Now, the rules have generally stabilized. Mask requirements have been dropped, but passengers must still prove vaccination and show a negative covid test taken no more than two days before a sailing. Capacities have also returned to near-normal on many ships and normal on a few.

Capacity, however, depends upon a few factors. First, there needs to be customer demand. That seems to largely have returned although prices remain depressed at least for some sailings. That’s an encouraging sign for the industry as the pool of potential passengers is smaller than it was pre-pandemic given the vaccination rules and the fact that vulnerable populations have largely chosen to limit travel.

Covid also impact capacity in a number of ways. In some cases, cruise lines still have to limit how many passengers are onboard to mitigate spread. At other times they have been forced to lower capacity, or even cancel sailings because they don’t have enough crew to serve a full passenger load.

Cancellations are, of course, a customer service nightmare, while lowered capacities creates a better customer experience in some ways (since fewer people will be onboard). That’s not an negative for the industry when the capacity limits are in place while cabins are being sold. It becomes a big problem when it happens after passengers have booked their trips.

When that happens, the cruise lines have to cancel reservations — a sort of nightmare situation that Norwegian finds itself in right now.

Image source: Carnival.

Crew Shortages Hit the Entire Cruise Industry

Recently, Carnival has had to cancel some cruises and not offer regular events onboard due to staffing shortages. This has largely been due to visa issues slowing down the ability to get crew members onboard. That’s a problem the Carnival President Christine Duffy has been working with U.S. authorities to solve the staffing problems, according to a report from Cruisehive.

“In a series of talks with the U.S. State Department and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the company managed to get several agreements in place that will help alleviate the problems it has been having with crewing its ships,” the website reported.

Crew shortages have impacted Royal Caribbean as well, although those reports have been more anecdotal based on social media reports, rather than the cruise line speaking to it directly.

Now, however, Norwegian faces a crew shortage that has actually led to it cancelling existing reservations.

Norwegian Cancels Some Passengers

Norwegian Cruise Line has struggled to staff its Pride of America, which sails out of Hawaii. The ship has already been sailing at half capacity because it only has about 550 of 930 crew members, Travel Weekly reported.

Despite those caps, some guests have still had their reservations cancelled.

“For guests currently booked on Pride of America for voyages that surpass current capacity levels, we will help them rebook new reservations for available voyages across the fleet and we will compensate them for this unfortunate turn of events,” a Norwegian spokesperson shared, according to the travel website.

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, Cruise Industry News reported.

Crew issues have been exacerbated by the situation onboard for crew members at all three major cruise lines. That has involved limited (or no) shore leave, very strict social distancing rules at times, and crew members still wearing masks. Those rules have slowly been loosening which could help cruise lines continue to solve this problem.

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