Cruise Lines: Caribbean Ports Are Open for Business
Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean want to make sure the public knows that 90 percent of Caribbean cruise destinations are still open for business, despite a devastating hurricane season. Many popular destinations like St. Lucia received no damage at all, and those that were hit are quickly rebounding – like Old Town San Juan, which is already up and running again, or St. Thomas, which will begin receiving visitors in November. Even hard-hit St. Maarten is set to reopen by the end of the year.
The two lines are supporting a multi-million-dollar publicity campaign to counter the perception that the entire region was affected by this year’s storms. "We have to keep in mind that the Caribbean encompasses an area of one million square miles, and that covers a large number of exotic places to see and explore. There are literally hundreds of different itineraries available," said Carnival CEO Arnold Donald in a conference call Monday.
The cruise lines are working closely with their partners in areas that were affected, and they say that they can assure guests that their trips will be enjoyable wherever they go. "There need to be a wide variety of shore excursion elements available in order for us to deliver a guest-satisfying experience at a port," said Adam Goldstein, president and COO of Royal Caribbean. "And there's no point in going to a port if we can't deliver a guest-satisfying experience. As you see us return to the destinations that were affected by hurricanes, that's a statement on our part that we believe we have secured appropriate shore excursion capacity to deliver [that] experience."
Customers appear to agree, as business remains steady. Donald and Goldstein confirmed that they have solid forward booking numbers through the rest of the year, but they deferred questions on reservations for trips in 2018 until their next earnings calls. "The more that people are aware that the Caribbean is up and running, the less likely it will be that there is any lasting impact in terms of people being concerned [about visiting] . . . because there's really no reason to be concerned," Donald said.
Donald and Goldstein stressed that going on a cruise is a great way in and of itself to support the hurricane recovery and the Caribbean economy. For those passengers who would like to have hands-on involvement with community development projects, Carnival has its Fathom brand of social-impact activities available in a number of locations. For both lines, though, the focus is on getting the mainstream cruise business back online in as many places as possible – with lots of help from hard-working partners on shore. “They’re absolutely determined to come back better than before,” said Goldstein. “The [affected islands] saw a tremendous impact, and it’s almost a badge of honor at this point that they could take a blow like that and come back better. Yes, we’re proud and pleased to be able to help, but the credit really goes to the people on the islands.”