2021 Cruise Line Revenue Still Far From 2019 Levels

Despite a more positive outlook on resuming cruises, cruise line revenue is still far from 2029 levels.

The restart of the cruise industry might be needed more than we previously thought. The pandemic has had a terrible effect on the entire industry, and while 2020 was the worst year for cruise lines in modern history, 2021 is on the way to become the second worst.

The cruise industry might have been building up reserves in the golden years before COVID-19, 2019, earning the three biggest cruise companies alone a record-breaking $38.4 billion. Those earnings have now been thoroughly depleted.

A 77% Drop in Revenue, Guest Numbers Drop 78%

It’s been a much talked about subject when COVID-19 hit the cruise industry, it hit hard. While the signs were there already in December of 2019, by the end of April 2020, when most cruise companies had voluntarily stopped operations, more than 50 ships had reported cases onboard. The mainstream media quickly depicted cruise lines as a petri dish, and the guest numbers went down to almost 0 for May and June.

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The cruise industry generated more than $40 billion in revenue worldwide in 2019. In 2009, the global ocean cruise industry carried about 17.8 million passengers. In 2019, this figure peaked at 29.7 million.

In 2020, those numbers dropped by more than 80%, and where many thought 2021 would be the year that the cruise lines could climb out of the dark, the opposite seems to be true.

Even with the restart, the cruise lines are planning this year, it won’t be nearly enough to make up the numbers previously seen. Bookings for cruises are mainly centered for 2022, although numbers have been getting better as more and more ships started operating in Europe and the UK safely.

3.4 million people went on a cruise last year, a drop of 88% against 2019, and those were mainly in the first three months of the year, with a few hundred thousand guests sailing in Singapore and Europe in the last six months of 2020.

This year, the industry is expected to carry 6.7 million guests spread out over the UK, Asia, and the US and Caribbean. This is still a 78% drop in passenger numbers.

Note: In the above link from StockApp, the revenue in billions is, in fact, the number of cruise passengers.

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Photo: Pattie Steib / Shutterstock

When Will We See A Recovery?

The cruise industry is hard at work to bring ships back into operation, but it will take time. The slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations in the Philippines, India, and South America, traditionally the base for crew members on board, is not doing the cruise lines any favors.

Just this week, we saw that Norwegian Cruise Line had to cancel cruises from both the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. The reason being that the sudden opening of Alaska caught the line by surprise and had to pull crew from the two ships in the Caribbean to operate one vessel in Alaska.

Projections from Statista suggest that the cruise industry will be able to rebound to pre-pandemic numbers around 2024 or 2025. Until that time, the cruise industry will need not only to recover and restart ships; it will need to win the trust of guests once again.

The cruise industry will always have its loyal base of guests that will always enjoy their cruises and know the ships are a safe haven from what is happening ashore. The mainstream guests that were scared away by the events in March and April last year will need to be convinced once again.


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