Few industries have been hit harder by the coronavirus pandemic than the cruise industry. Due to the massive outbreak on board of the Diamond Princess, the industry was negatively associated with the pandemic from the start, and the large number of vessels reporting positive cases on board has led industry critics to call cruise ships “floating petri dishes”, which is perhaps a bit harsh.
Like all mass congregations in tight spaces, putting thousands of passengers on a cruise ship in the middle of a pandemic simply isn’t a good idea, however, which is why most cruise lines have suspended travel completely for the time being. With measures such as reduced passenger capacity, social distancing and strict rules on hygiene, the Norwegian Hurtigruten Line was the first to resume cruises in mid-June, only to find itself at the center of attention after at least 40 passengers and crew members on board of the MS Roald Amundsen had tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
As the following chart shows, cruise line revenues have practically disappeared in the second quarter of 2020, with each of the three largest operators seeing sales drop by at least 85 percent for the three months ended June 30 (May 31 for Carnival). Looking at the first six months of 2020, all three industry heavyweights are faced with billion-dollar losses, posing the question if and when the industry can recover from hitting this virus-shaped iceberg.