plans to resume revenue-generating cruises out of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in June—a crucial step in getting back to business given the importance of Florida ports to Royal and its peers.
Royal Caribbean (ticker: RCL) said late Wednesday that one of its vessels, Celebrity Edge, was green-lighted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to resume sailing. It plans to do so on June 26.
“All sailings will depart with vaccinated crew and everyone over the age of 16 must present proof of vaccination against COVID-19,” the company said. As of Aug. 1, all passengers ages 12 and up must present proof of vaccination, the company added.
(NCLH) also said Wednesday that it will resume Florida sailings this year, though later than Royal. Norwegian plans to begin sailing out of Miami in October and Port Canaveral in November.
The cruise companies, largely shut down since March 2020 due to the pandemic, have racked up billions of dollars of losses as most of their ships sit idle. Shares of all three of the biggest U.S. cruise companies were making gains in early trading Thursday morning.
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JPMorgan analyst Brandt Montour observed in a research note that Royal Caribbean’s “late-June restart date is ahead of our and most others’ expectations for a July restart.”
Plans for the resumption of Florida sailings comes after Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line last week said they plan to resume sailings out of Alaska this summer, thanks to legislation passed by Congress recently.
Montour also pointed out that the CDC this week “further relaxed mask-wearing and social-distancing guidelines for fully vaccinated passengers.”
Amid the quickly evolving cruise regulatory framework, there are several test cruises scheduled in which passengers don’t pay fares—or non-revenue sailings.
Royal Caribbean, Montour wrote, effectively has two parallel pathways for a reopening, one for vaccinated cruises and the other for nonvaccinated sailings. The latter is scheduled to have a test voyage in June aboard the Freedom of the Seas. These voyages would presumably have different health protocols than the so-called vaccinated cruises would.
Elsewhere, Norwegian on Wednesday said it plans to begin sailings in July across all three of its brands covering 16 ships—though some of those voyages aren’t scheduled until early next year.
The company said in a release that “all initial voyages will operate with fully vaccinated guests and crew” along with other heightened Covid protocols.
(CCL), the largest of the three largest U.S. cruise operators, plans to resume Alaska sailings this summer across three brands. It’s also on track to resume sailings out of Miami this summer.
It’s expected that 2021 will be a transition year for the cruise companies given that they’ve been largely shut down since March of 2020 due to the pandemic. As they resume more sailings, these companies will have their earnings pressured by billions of dollars of capital raises, much of it debt.