For much of February and March, cruise ships floated through headlines as clusters of Covid-19 infections broke out onboard.
First it was the Diamond Princess, held off the coast of Japan for nearly a month as the virus spread among its passengers and crew. Another ship, the Grand Princess, later accumulated infections off the coast of California. And in an ongoing saga, the Carnival-owned Holland America ship Zaandam is currently en route to Fort Lauderdale, Florida with 200 sick and four dead passengers. In each case, hundreds of people and a highly communicable virus have been trapped on board with one another for extended periods of time.
In spite of these incidents, investment analysts at UBS say their conversations with large US cruise lines show people are still feeling dreamy about sea-bound escapes.
“Booking volume in the last 30 days for 2021 is actually up 9% versus the same time last year,” UBS equity analysts wrote in a March 31 report on cruise lines. “That includes people applying their future cruise credits from sailings that were cancelled this year, but still shows a surprising resilience in desire to book a cruise.”
Major cruise lines have temporarily halted setting sail as a response to the virus. In cases of canceled cruises, lines are giving passengers the option to have travel credits valued greater than their original purchases (some at 120%) or full refunds. It’s unclear how much of the reported 9% increase in booking volume is comprised of people rebooking canceled trips.
Still, cruises to Asia and Alaska are up more than usual. Tours through the Caribbean are performing well, too. The only bookings that are underperforming are ones to the Mediterranean Sea, the analysts wrote.