Cruise industry poised to make strong comeback in 2023

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Cruises and vacation experiences continue to see ‘very strong demand’: Naftali Holtz

Royal Caribbean Group Chief Financial Officer Naftali Holtz discusses the strong consumer demand for cruises and the impact the pandemic had on the industry on ‘Mornings with Maria.’

The cruise industry, which suffered significant financial losses and other COVID-related challenges over the past few years, is poised to have a strong 2023, according to a new survey.

Over half of U.S. adults say they are just as likely or more likely to consider taking a cruise vacation as they were prior to the pandemic, according to a AAA survey. That's up from 45% a year ago, according to the data. 

AAA Senior Vice President of Travel Paula Twidale touted that "cruising is back in a big way" after years of uncertainty. 

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"We expect a lot more people to book cruises in 2023 as several new ships have entered the market," Twidale said. 

November was already a "record-breaking month for cruise bookings," with Black Friday marking the "single largest booking day in history" for many cruise companies, according to Twidale. 

The Carnival Valor cruise ship sets sail from the Port of New Orleans in New Orleans, Louisiana, March 3, 2022. (Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley told FOX Business in October that consumers continue to prove they are willing to spend on experiences even despite growing concerns of a recession.

During its third-quarter earnings call, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty told analysts that the company saw "both strong demand for close-in sailings and accelerating demand for sailings in 2023." 

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Meanwhile, Carnival Corporation CEO Josh Weinstein said the company "enjoyed a strong response" to Black Friday and Cyber Monday activity, and that momentum continued into December, "building our base occupancy and marking an early start to a strong wave season ahead." 

The Carnival cruise ship Sunrise is seen docked at Miami Port, in Miami, Florida, on June 18, 2022.  (REUTERS/Marco Bello / Reuters Photos)

It's an about-face from the early days of the pandemic when travel fell to a standstill. Cruise lines also imposed tight COVID-related restrictions to tame the spread of the virus. However, as cases eased and vaccination rates rose, major operators were able to relax some protocols. 

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Ticker Security Last Change Change %
RCL ROYAL CARIBBEAN GROUP 53.37 +0.73 +1.39%
CCL CARNIVAL CORP. 8.94 +0.20 +2.29%

To make travelers more comfortable, cruise lines "have undertaken extensive measures to promote health and safety onboard, so you can expect attention to detail and cleanliness," Twidale noted. 

If there is an unexpected illness, "they have protocols in place to isolate passengers as they recuperate," Twindale added. 

In 2023, Weinstein expects "more markets to open for cruise travel, protocols to continue to relax, our closer-to-home itineraries play out and our brands continue to hone all aspects of their revenue-generating activities." 

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