In March, as the cruise industry’s frustration with the CDC reached its peak, cruise lines began scheduling cruises for Americans just outside of US borders, from countries such as the Bahamas, St. Martin, Jamaica and Bermuda.
The crossings gave Americans routes they could actually book, departing from places that, for the most part, were no further than the ports of Florida. It also created a narrative echoed by politicians and travel associations lobbying the CDC to allow the resumption of cruises in US waters: Americans will be sailing this summer from anywhere but here, robbing US ports of millions of people. dollars in revenue that cruising generates each year.
In his latest earnings call, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings director Frank Del Rio warned that while these crossings have gone well, targeting cruises from the Dominican Republic, “Who knows? This vessel could prove to be so profitable there that it will never return to US waters, which would be one of the economic victims of this CDC-induced prolonged suspension. “
At the time, he said the line’s two ships based in Caribbean ports, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica, were doing “better than expected”, especially given their reduced booking window and the fact that summer is not the peak season for Caribbean cruises.
But it now seems that for at least some of these ships, better than expected was not enough. Royal Caribbean International has canceled Vision of the Seas sailings from Bermuda, and Norwegian Cruise Line has canceled Norwegian Gem from the Dominican Republic and the Norwegian Joy season from Montego Bay, Jamaica. So far, the other Caribbean-based ships are staying put, but many travel advisers say the crossings overall have not been an easy sell.
One problem is simple: itineraries were set very late for cruise departures, giving people only a few months notice to make plans. Ships also require adult passengers to be vaccinated, and when the routes were first launched, vaccination rates in the United States were on the rise but still low, which may have contributed to a reluctance to book . And in the months since the routes were announced, the CDC relaxed some restrictions, making the restart of a U.S. cruise in July a reality.
In canceling the Joy and the Gem, Norwegian said it was related to the need for crew to launch operations in Alaska this summer.
Valerie Dorsey, of Cruise Planners in Royal Palm Beach, Fla., Flies to Nassau in July to board a ship “so I can have first-hand knowledge to share with customers to allay their fears.” .
“I haven’t had any clients who wish to fly to the Caribbean to board the ships docked there, yet,” she said, “although I send emails and send them to them. speak”.
Gary Smith, a Dream Vacations franchisee, also said there was little demand among his clientele for cruises starting outside the United States.
“There has been some interest from customers on the east coast,” he said, “not huge and certainly not what we were hoping for. And there is almost no interest in these alternate departures. , even in the Caribbean, off the west coast. ”
Smith and Dorsey both said most people are still booking 2022 or late 2021 cruises, expecting there to be more certainty.
Anthony Hamawy, chairman of Cruise.com, said the company sold most of the cruises launched overseas this summer, but said that judging by the rate cuts leading specifically to the cancellation of Bermuda , “there was not enough demand to support the sail.”
“Bermuda appears to be returning to quarantine [in April] and with CDC ranking as a high risk destination, demand has been impacted, ”he said.