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Nightmare: assessing the coronavirus damage for the cruise industry

Tuesday, March 17th 2020 - 07:34 UTC
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Major cruise companies, Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings have predicted that their 2020 earnings will be impacted Major cruise companies, Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings have predicted that their 2020 earnings will be impacted

The novel coronavirus is becoming a financial and public-relations nightmare for the cruise industry, from failed quarantine attempts on ships to passenger lawsuits and a stream of cancellations.

Major cruise companies like Carnival Corp., Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings have predicted that their 2020 earnings will be impacted by the virus, while more than 700 passengers on Princess Cruises' Diamond Princess ship, which is owned by Carnival, contracted the coronavirus during a bungled quarantine in February. The ship started with just 10 cases.

Since then, some cruise lines, including Princess, have canceled all trips through early May.

If one were to measure the damage to the cruise industry on a scale from one to 10, Memorial University of Newfoundland professor and cruise-industry expert Ross Klein told Business Insider, coronavirus would fall between a seven and a nine depending on the cruise line.

“It's very high on the scale,” Klein, who studies the industry and runs a website documenting illness outbreaks on ships, said.

The cruise industry has weathered bad times before, including other illness outbreaks and even the 2012 Costa Concordia shipwreck, which killed 32 passengers. But the industry hasn't faced a bigger disruption than the coronavirus since 1985, Klein said, when the Achille Lauro ship was hijacked by the Palestinian Liberation Front, which shot and killed passenger Leon Klinghoffer before throwing him overboard.

Klinghoffer was 69 and using a wheelchair, and his death became a national news story and inspiration for a 1991 opera. It stuck with the cruise industry for a while, particularly in places like Europe, like the Mediterranean,“ Klein said.

The industry recovered from that incident and has grown rapidly in the decades since. The coronavirus probably won't cause long-term damage either, Klein said.

”It will take them time to rebuild their customer base, but I think it will be rebuilt,” he said.

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