How Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine is Impacting the Cruise Industry

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Less than 24 hours since Russian forces attacked Ukraine and crossed the border, the big cruise companies already feel the effects. Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings saw stocks falling considerably.

That’s not all, though; fuel prices have been rising in recent months, with the price of Marine Gas Oil already up from $383 in 2020 to over $800 today. Besides the financial cost, several different cruise lines traditionally sail the Black Sea, cruises that will likely be canceled with war nearby. 

Travel Stocks Under Pressure

With the cruise industry on the verge of recovery and the threat of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant all but in the past, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia comes at the worst possible time. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings could not have picked a worse day as it revealed its rather disappointing financial results over the fourth quarter of 2021. 

Cruise Ships Docked in Miami
Photo Credit: Mia2you /

The three major cruise companies, Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, all opened well below the closing mark of the previous day, with pre-market trading decidedly negative towards the travel market.

Carnival Corporation lost nearly $4 per stock since February 16 and $1.40 pre-opening; Royal Caribbean lost more than $4 before the opening of the markets. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings lost $2.80 pre-opening, or 7%, 

The cruise line operator’s shares fell in premarket trading after reporting a more comprehensive quarterly loss than anticipated and revenue that missed estimates. It’s among travel stocks under pressure today, coming largely from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Cruise Ship Refueling
Cruise Ship Refueling (Photo Credit: RUBEN M RAMOS / Shutterstock)

At the same time, the most significant expense for cruise companies, fuel, is also making some dramatic moves. Fuel prices have been rising for much longer, but the last 24 hours have seen pricing for MGO (Marine G Oil) selling at $832 per metric ton in Rotterdam. This is nearly triple from 2020 and something that is likely going to affect cruise prices. 

Baltic and Black Sea Cruises Under Threat

In November 2014, most, if not all, cruise lines canceled their cruise season in the Black Sea amidst the turmoil at that time between Russia and Ukraine. The same is likely to happen this year. And it is not just the Black Sea that would see a significant impact. 

A trade embargo with Russia would also mean that cruises in the Baltic that include calls to St. Petersburg would need to be canceled. Something that Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which has around 50 calls scheduled to St. Petersburg this summer, has already considered, as became clear during an earnings call on Thursday morning:

“This is something we’ve been thinking about, and worst-case scenario. if we’re not able to call on Saint Petersburg or the surrounding areas, there are plenty of other ports in the Scandinavian region that we have the ability to call on. Europe is a big continent too. This is affecting a very small portion of Europe and there’s a lot of other areas that we can operate in,” said Mark Kempa, chief financial officer for the cruise company. 

Norwegian Cruise Line Terminal
Photo Credit: Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock

Other cruise lines have already put out notices that they are watching the situation closely and will take action if and when that becomes necessary. 

Cunard and P&O Cruises UK posted the following message on their official Facebook accounts:

“In light of the current situation evolving in Ukraine we continue to monitor this situation very closely and we will amend itineraries as necessary following guidance. Our top priority is compliance, environmental protection, and the health, safety, and well-being of our guests, crew members, shoreside employees, and the people in the places we touch and we will advise guests of any changes accordingly as soon as possible.”

P&O Britannia Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: pixinoo /

UK Cruise Line SAGA Cruises already rerouted an upcoming Black Sea Cruise, a Saga spokesperson said this:

“Guests are in the process of being contacted about the change, and the rest of the cruise remains unaffected,” said the spokesperson. “We are now looking at the impact of today’s developments [Thursday] on our Baltic cruises later this year, which were due to call in at St Petersburg. We will continue to monitor the situation and if necessary make further alterations to our itineraries whilst still ensuring the best experience for our guests.”

For those who thought that the difficult times were finally behind us, today proved, again, that there is always something new behind the next corner.

Today though, our thoughts are with the thousands of Ukrainian crew members on board cruise ships, far away from a country in turmoil, and with the hope that they too can return to their homes in peace soon. 

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