Carnival Corporation boss Arnold Donald has vowed its brands will be in “total compliance” with health and safety regulations “in order for people to feel comfortable cruising again” post-coronavirus.
The chief executive of the cruising giant said the sector had been “devastated temporarily” by the spread of Covid-19 but said its long-term future “will be great, as long as we all stand together, cooperate with each other and work to get this thing under control”.
Speaking on CNBC’s Closing Bell, Donald said Carnival Corp’s bookings for 2021 were “strong” with the company “working really hard” to seek additional liquidity options following Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund taking an 8.2% stake in it last week.
“We definitely think we can get through to the end of the year with that – we’re not saying that [suspension until the end of the year] is going to happen, but we want to prepare for the worst case,” he said.
Donald added there were options in Germany, Italy and the UK for the company to attract additional funding.
Asked why consumers would choose to board a cruise ship until there is a Covid-19 vaccine, following a string of coronavirus-related incidents onboard ships, Donald said: “Why would someone go into a subway station? Why would they go into an airport terminal? Why would they go into a restaurant and if they don’t, then they wouldn’t be cruising either.
“When we feel as a society there is acceptable risk in social gathering. If social gathering is not happening – then cruise is not happening.”
He said Carnival’s brands have “lots of protocols in place” surrounding the health and safety of guests from learnings from previous illness and disease outbreaks worldwide.
“This one [Covid-19] could be different, and we need to take a hard look at it and together come up with whatever the right thing to do is.”
Asked if he had any regrets over Carnival Corp’s decision to allow its lines to continue to operate following the quarantining of Princess Cruises’ Diamond Princess in Japan, Donald answered: “You make the decisions with information you have at the time. You could say the same thing with any city once you have a number of deaths – ‘do you regret not closing your restaurants sooner? Do you regret not restricting air travel sooner?
“If we had known that information at that time [that sheltering at home] was the best way to deal with this, then clearly we would have done that because we volunteered to pause operations – we were not forced to pause. We took the information at hand at the time – no medical experts around the world were saying you shouldn’t cruise.
“Social gathering is going to return and when it does people will want to cruise. We have lots of people booking now for 2021, some for 2020 still, and we will have to see how this evolves.”
Donald added that Carnival Corp had received “a number of enquiries” to use its vessels as makeshift hospitals after putting out the offer to countries worldwide last month.
“We have a number of people around the world examining it as an option. We’re happy to do it,” he said.