Somewhere Beyond the Sea
Ocean cruises extend their suspension to September
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the world’s largest cruise industry trade association, announced last week that its ocean-going cruise line members will extend the suspension of cruise operations from U.S. ports until Sept. 15, 2020.
The current “No Sail Order” issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will expire July 24 and cruise lines had previously planned to resume U.S. operations soon after that date. CLIA is taking more precautions and said more time is needed.
“Although we are confident that future cruises will be healthy and safe, and will fully reflect the latest protective measures, we also feel that it is appropriate to err on the side of caution to help ensure the best interests of our passengers and crewmembers,” CLIA said in a statement. “The additional time will also allow us to consult with the CDC on measures that will be appropriate for the eventual resumption of cruise operations.”
The Port of New Orleans (Port NOLA), the sixth-largest cruise port in the U.S., currently homeports ocean-going cruise lines Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Disney with various itineraries through the year. Carnival and Royal Caribbean, which operate year-round vessels from Port NOLA, have shifted their schedules and provide resources on their websites for those who had booked now-cancelled cruises.
Cruise revenue, which accounts for 16 percent of Port NOLA’s annual revenue, has taken a big hit.
According to Port NOLA spokesperson Jessica Ragusa, the port projects $4 million in revenue loss for fiscal year 2020 (ending June 30) due to COVID-19-related cruise suspensions. The port’s other lines of business — cargo, industrial real estate and rail – continue to be a focus of operations.
Ragusa said the situation is fluid and the port does not yet have a clear picture of what the long-term impacts of cruise cancellations will be. She said the updated impacts of the extended suspension will be discussed at the regular board of commissioners meetings scheduled for tomorrow, June 25, which will be held via Zoom to maintain social distancing.
The port is working closely with regional and state tourism partners to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19 on the tourism industry.
“We have ongoing weekly communications with New Orleans and Company, the mayor’s office and the lieutenant governor’s office to discuss the current state of cruises and the evolving circumstances,” said Ragusa. “As the city and state take measured steps to reopening with proper timing and measures in place, we are aligned with our tourism and hospitality partners in making sure that visitors know we will be here ready to welcome them when the time comes, with the excitement and warmth Louisiana is known for.”
River cruises are not limited by the CLIA suspension and will begin operations in July as planned. Port NOLA homeports American Cruise Lines and American Queen Steamboat Company, both of which are offering July itineraries on their vessels departing from New Orleans for Mississippi River cruises.
In February, Port NOLA reported growing popularity with river cruises and said 2019 set a new modern-day record of 31,306 river cruise passenger movements. Last year also brought the port another milestone number, reaching 1.2 million total cruise passenger movements with 251 cruise vessel calls, an increase from 235 calls in 2018.
Port NOLA reports 90 percent of cruise guests travel from out of state, and 73 percent spend a day or two in New Orleans either before or after their cruise. Those passengers and crew members spend over $129 million in the regional economy and generate 306,000 hotel room nights annually.