Coronavirus pandemic prompts the big 3 cruise companies to suspend operations

Business

The Norwegian Cruise Line Norwegian Bliss cruise ship passes through John Hopkins Inlet in Glacier Bay, Alaska, July 11, 2019.

Tim Rue | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has brought the bulk of the cruise industry to a standstill as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruises announced Friday the suspension of operations. 

Norwegian Cruises announced the immediate suspension of global operations until April 11 and Royal Caribbean said it is suspending U.S. cruises for 30 days. The announcements follow the news Thursday that Carnival‘s Princess Cruises is suspending global operations until May 10, which sent the stock down over 30%.

All three major publicly traded cruise companies have now suspended at least some operations as the COVID-19 pandemic that’s infected over 137,445 and killed at least 5,088 people across the world roils the travel industry. The cruise industry has been hit particularly hard, with outbreaks of the virus occurring among passengers and crew on board, prompting on-ship quarantines.

Shares of Royal and Norwegian were both halted Friday before the announcements. Royal’s stock finished the day up nearly 7% amid broader market gains. Norwegian Cruises stock closed up over 15%. However, shares of all three companies have fallen by over 60% since Jan. 1. 

Norwegian’s announcement impacts the company’s entire fleet of 28 ships across its three brands, the company said.

“With the COVID-19 coronavirus impacting communities around the globe, we have enacted a voluntary temporary suspension of cruise voyages across our brands effective immediately,” Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian, said in a statement.

Voyages currently underway will conclude “as soon as possible,” the company said, adding that it will assist cusomerts with travel arrangements. The company said customers whose trips are affected can choose to receive either a 125% refund in the form a future cruise credit or a 100% cash refund. 

Royal said it’s announcement impacts “the fleet’s US sailings,” adding that it will contact affected customers and crew to “work through this disruption.”

“We understand the gravity of the public health crisis confronting the country,” Royal said in a statement. “And this is our part to play.”

The announcements were made as President Donald Trump declared a national emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The State Department earlier this week issued an official advisory for Americans, especially those most vulnerable to COVID-19, which includes older people and anyone with underlying health conditions, to “not travel by cruise ship.”

“We want to work with the cruise line industry to ensure that when we come through this, that cruise lines and the medical services that are available for the passengers and all of the crew that cruise lines are safer than ever before and can prosper for years to come,” Vice President Mike Pence said. 

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