The boss of Princess Cruises says “very inconsistent” messaging around travel restrictions has dampened consumer demand and made life difficult for travel agents.
John Padgett told a Travel Weekly webcast that there is a “huge desire” from customers to get back sailing on cruises across the world, but this had not necessarily translated into enquiries or bookings.
He said that the entire cruise industry has been hampered by “uncertainty” over travel rules and added that he hoped clarity would be come “in the near future”.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this month said it would not extend its advice against cruising, which had been introduced in late December to combat the spread of the Omicron variant.
“The messaging around the world is very inconsistent,” he said. “It’s hard for consumers to understand.
“Travel planners (agents) have their hands full, trying to keep a bead on their market and the changing rules and regulations. It somewhat puts a little bit of a hindrance on your demand.”
Currently, eight Princess ships have resumed operations and seven more are scheduled to return by 2023.
But Padgett reported a “mixed bag” in terms of occupancy rates so far, and blamed mandatory capacity restrictions and the messaging around travel restrictions for that.
Cruise lines are required to isolate any positive Covid cases onboard to reduce the risk of an onboard outbreak, meaning some cabins are not available to book.
Padgett said: “We should have most [ships] back in service by the summer, so that’s really great. We have reduced capacity and occupancy by design. We would, of course, love more demand.”
He added that potential passengers are “super excited” to join Princess’ itineraries in further afield destinations when they return.
“Princess is fundamentally a world cruise line,” he said. “We deploy in markets all over the world, but the world is shut down on many frontiers, so we’re operating different itineraries than typical.”
Princess’ ships Regal Princess and Sky Princess were based in the UK last year. Regal Princess initially sailed ‘cruises to nowhere’ before building up to calls at ports and longer voyages of up to seven days.
Passengers who have cruised with Princess since the industry’s restart last year have returned guest satisfaction scores that are “off the charts”, Padgett added.
“We’re very confident that demand will come back as the uncertainty goes away – there is just so much uncertainty and turmoil,” he said. “It does put a bit of a hinderance on the demand. But I don’t think there’s any doubt that there’s a huge desire to get back on vacation.”