Could Carnival Cruise Line’s Plan Backfire?

Carnival Cruise Line has decided not to find alternative homeports outside the United States but, could this backfire? Let's look at the pros and cons.

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With the recent onslaught of new homeports Royal Caribbean has announced, a full-blown restart of cruising in the UK, and successful cruises in Europe and Asia, there is one cruise line that has been steadfast in its opinion. Carnival Cruise Line will not change its homeports.

In many ways, the approach by President Christine Duffy is to be commended and admired. Duffy has always said she believes Carnival Cruise Line to be America’s cruise line. And America’s cruise line sails from American homeports.

Then again, this plan could backfire in several ways. Guests will be able to sail from the Bahamas with a number of cruise lines. The lack of action might see the cruise line on hold even longer while rivals such as Royal Caribbean already begin to sail from alternative homeports outside the U.S.

We look at why Carnival Cruise Line has made the right choice to stick to its strategy. And we look at why Carnival Cruise Line’s plan could backfire and might be the wrong decision in the end.

Carnival Cruise Ship in Miami
Photo Credit: Igor_Koptilin / Shutterstock.com

Some Background

Much of Carnival Cruise Line’s strategy is part of Carnival Corporation’s strategy. The corporation has been setting a course where different cruise lines represent a different segment of the world’s population and particular demographics.

For example, Carnival Cruise Line is focused on the US, Costa Cruises on Italy, AIDA focuses on Germany, Seabourn on the Ultra-Luxury market. In contrast, P&O UK is mainly focused on the UK market.

To break with this strategy will be something that both Arnold Donald and Christine Duffy will want to avoid. Duffy said this in a video message last week:

“Here at Carnival we currently do not have any plans to move our ships away from their US homeports, I’ve always said Carnival Cruise Line is America’s cruise line. We sail from 14 US homeports, a significant number of our guests drive to their Carnival vacations, and we also sail with more families and children than any other cruise line.”

That message was re-iterated by Carnival Cruise Line Brand Ambassador and well respected Senior Cruise Director John Heald recently:

Embarkation staff, Porters and Stevedores, Taxi drivers, Ship Provision and Supply companies, Truck drivers, Port workers, Harbour Pilots, Linesman, Local shop owners, Hotels for pre-and post-cruise stays. Just some of the many thousands of people who depend on the cruise industry and depend on the Carnival Cruise Line ships. We will continue to support our 14 American homeports and bring cruising back as soon as possible.

But is this strategy the right choice? There are two ways to look at this:

Carnival Cruise Ships Docked in Cozumel
Photo Credit: Solarisys / Shutterstock.com

NO- Carnival Cruise Line Needs to Start Cruising Now

Carnival Cruise Line has no choice but to steer away from the course it has set out; otherwise, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises will be reaping the benefits.

There has been much talk of pent-up demand for cruising, and Carnival could be losing too much business if it doesn’t change its mind. And that is something the shareholders, in particular, might not enjoy.

The arrival of the vaccine has made it possible for the cruise lines to sail with vaccinated guests only. Why would Carnival need to wait for U.S. homeports if it can sail from Nassau, a one-hour flight from Miami?

And what is the issue anyway? Sailing from Nassau or Miami is a vastly smaller difference than sailing from Sydney or Brisbane, something the line would not have hesitated doing if the Australian market was open.

The current strategy could backfire towards Carnival Cruise Line. The line will lose a considerable amount of business. Guests desperate to go cruising might choose Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, Even Norwegian Cruise Line is set to announce new deployments. Many won’t be happy that the Royal Caribbean share price has gone up to $20 since February, where Carnival’s share price has gone up only $7.

Even though the CDC has already hinted that new guidelines on resuming cruises are to be released, there is no guarantee this could clear the way for a summer restart. With cruise lines finding alternative solutions and the restart in the UK could put added pressure on Carnival Cruise Line.

Hotels Near Miami Cruise Port with Shuttle Service
Photo: Copyright Cruise Hive

YES- Carnival Cruise Line Has The Right Strategy, No Need To Cruise Now

Carnival may have made the right decision to stay true to its strategy of not sailing just yet. Carnival Cruise Line is America’s Cruise Line, and as such should wait to sail until the US authorities think it is safe to do so.

Millions of Americans count on the cruise lines for their income and livelihoods. As Duffy said before, people drive to the Carnival ships for their cruises. Families are an essential part of the atmosphere on board Carnival ships, and changing 14 homeports will play havoc on an eventual, possibly imminent, restart of cruising in the U.S. By staying in the U.S., Carnival is again voicing its strong support to U.S ports and the local economy.

Second, many Americans are not exactly eager to start traveling internationally just yet. Even though the US’s vaccination grade is one of the highest globally, the support for COVID-19 travel passes and mandatory vaccinations onboard cruise ships is low.

By waiting out the CDC’s requirements and choosing for a stay in the U.S., Carnival Cruise Line is leaving the decisions to the authorities. And that could pay off to be the smartest choice of all right now.

By staying in the U.S., the line is not only showing it cares about its business, it shows it cares about the communities that depend on that business.

Also Read: Carnival Cruise Ships: Where Are They And Where They Will Go

Conclusion

Whether you are for or against the choices made by Christine Duffy and Donald Arnold, either way, there can be found sound reasoning behind the supporters and those opposing the choice by the management.

Carnival has set its sights on a re-opening of the U.S. and will not be sailing from other homeports. If the CDC makes its decision soon, it will have made the right choice and one respected by the many fans of the cruise line in the States.

Should the CDC’s decision process take much longer, it could well turn out to be sour grapes for Carnival Cruise Line. Either way, there is nothing to do but wait and see what happens.

Carnival Cruise Ships in Nassau

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