Carnival Corporation has reported booking volumes were up 90% during the first quarter compared to the final three months of last year – and 2022 bookings are up on 2019 levels.
The cruise giant reported a net loss of $2 billion for the first three months of 2021, but said cash reserves remained at $11.5 billion.
The corporation said its cash burn rate of $500 million had been “better than expected” as a result of “prudent stewardship of capital”.
Carnival said it is sitting on $2.2 billion of future cruse credits, and said the cost of refunds in the first quarter has been offset by new deposits for bookings made in the period.
Booking figures reflected “significant pent-up demand and long-term potential for cruising”, president and chief executive Arnold Donald said.
Advance bookings for the full year of 2022 are currently ahead of “a very strong” 2019 despite “minimal advertising and marketing”, the company added. Booking trends are compared to 2019 rather than 2020 due to the pause in operations last year caused tby the Covid-19 pandemic.
At least six of the company’s nine brands are expected to resume operations this year with P&O Cruises, Cunard and Princess Cruises all offering UK sailings later this summer.
Seabourn is due to resume in Greece, Aida in the Canary Islands and Costa in Italy.
Donald said the company had experienced “significant latent demand” upon opening new sailings for this summer.
“P&O Cruises opened to its single biggest booking day in seven years on the announcement for coastal sailings of its two ships and generated significant buzz,” he said.
“Cunard’s ‘summer at sea’ luxury UK voyages drove its biggest booking day in the UK in over a decade, while Princess had its second biggest booking day in the UK ever.
“This strong initial demand has confirmed our confidence and indicated the potential for further pricing strength.”
The world’s largest cruise company’s chief financial officer Dave Bernstein said: “At this time, we believe we have enough liquidity to get us back to full operations and we will be pursuing refinancing opportunities to reduce interest expense and extend maturities.”
Donald added that the company was positioning itself to be stronger than it was before the pandemic brought cruise operations to a halt, noting its customer database of 40 million past cruisers.
“We are going to come out [of the pandemic] leaner and having more impact per dollar spent,” Donald added. “Repeat cruisers have gone a whole year without being able to cruise.
“We are focused on resuming operations as quickly as practical, while at the same time demonstrating prudent stewardship of capital and doing so in a way that serves the best interests of public health.
“Our portfolio of brands have clearly been an asset as we resume operations this summer with nine ships across six of our brands.”
Donald added: “With an exciting roster of six new, more efficient ships by December and with lower capacity from the exit of 19 less efficient ships, we expect to capitalize on pent-up demand and achieve significant cost improvement from the greater efficiency of our fleet, along with ongoing streamlining of shoreside operations.”
Donald appeared to rule out having ships with either vaccinated or non-inoculated passengers onboard.
“That is one of a thousand different scenarios,” he said. “Hopefully, we will have something which is much more straight forward.”
Donald added the Carnival was continuing to work on securing the ability to resume cruising from US ports “in a manner consistent with the expected return of other forms of travel, leisure and entertainment activities”.
In a call with analysts, he said: “We want to share the optimism that we can be sailing in July. And I think by working together, we can all make that happen”.
He added: “At the same time, we are, of course, working toward resuming operations in other parts of the world, including Australia and Asia. In fact, 59 of our 90 ships are outside the US conditional sail order.”
Donald said: “Over the last 14 months, agility has been a key strength. 2021 will clearly be a transition year. We expect the environment to remain dynamic over the next 12 months as we roll out our fleet while continuing to adapt to an ever-changing situation.
“As expected, we are staggering the introduction of ships with each of our brands and will ramp up the number of vessels and the occupancy levels over time as destinations reopen and we gain further experience with our enhanced protocols.”
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