After the 2008 recession and the 9/11 attacks, the cruise industry heavily discounted cruise prices in a bid to lure back travellers.
During the coronavirus crisis, some thought there would be the same rock-bottom prices we saw in previous periods of instability.
But this time, it’s different.
Industry watchers, analysts and executives from the cruise industry anticipate huge demand – but limited capacity due to the need for social distancing and new health regulations about cabins and crowds.
Others are suggesting premium pricing for “ship within a ship” facilities that mean fewer, higher-paying guests.
Vicki Freed, from Royal Caribbean in America confirmed that ships will be sailing at reduced capacity, and it is the first time a cruise line has confirmed the change.
“We note that since cruise lines are taking so much capacity out of service and not pricing to fill what is in service, they could potentially eliminate some of the lowest-margin demand that they might normally turn to when filling a ship,” UBS Analyst Robin Farley said in a note to Travel Weekly.
Ms Freed also said that the line will be sailing at lower occupancy and is holding the line at price as RCL does not want to compromise quality.
“We know that initially we’re not sailing at 100% occupancy and we’ll have to have lower load factors – I think all the cruise lines are planning that,” Ms Freed said.
“And we’re going to need to have more staff onboard and still offer the quality people expect from Royal Caribbean. If suddenly we downgrade the product onboard people will say, ‘they’re not the same brand I thought they were ‘ So you do keep your price integrity up in order to fund what we need to fund.”
The cruise line said they will also be anticipating people paying more for experiences like the line’s private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay private island.
“It’s a safe, enclosed environment; it’s a private island, it’s got all the fun and thrill and chill that people want now,” she said.
“I think itineraries with Perfect Day at CocoCay or our private island of Labadee will demand a better price.”
Mr Farley said according to an executive from a privately-owned cruise line, he expects “only single-digit price declines”.
“He believes that cruise lines will keep ships in various stages of warm and hot and cold layup so that they will be able to add ships into service without delay if there is demand,” Mr Farley told Travel Weekly.
“A month of notice is more than enough time to staff a ship and start operations. Airlift is not that much of an issue since the cruise lines can charter flights from the Philippines and Indonesia, for example, when they are ready to bring crew back to a ship.”
A number of cruise lines like Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line and MSC offer private VIP areas, where accommodation, dining areas as well as pools and bars are a separate world from the rest of the ship.
CruiseRadio.net has posed the question that perhaps, the cost of these areas may increase once cruising resumes, as some passengers may want to socially distance themselves while on their holiday.
On many of Norwegian’s ships, there is an adults-only space called the Vibe Beach Club, and on each sailing, a limited number of passes are sold on a first come, first served basis to those who want to access the area. Inside, there are comfy lounges, a private bar as well as hot tubs.
But even before COVID, according to Cruise Radio, the Vibe Beach Club became so popular that people raced to purchase their passes as soon as they got on the ship. And the price rose from US$50 per person per week to US$200 per person, per week.