5 reasons why I’m bullish on the return of cruising

May 6, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

On March 9, my friend boarded the Norwegian Jewel in Fiji to meet his parents for the cruise of a lifetime. By March 19 he was texting me things like, “Have you heard of any plans for this ship? We are clueless and cruising around the Pacific. Might stop in Hawaii, but probably won’t be let off. Might go through the Panama Canal. Who knows, but we are in good spirits!”

Norwegian Jewel. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.
Norwegian Jewel. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

For all the latest news on the outbreak go to our dedicated coverage page.

On March 21, he texted pictures from the ship, where folks were enjoying an experience that people on land could only dream of — sunny days by the pool with frozen drinks. “Life is good; there are ZERO cases of ANY virus on board,” he wrote.  His dream trip finally came to an end on March 23, when Hawaiian officials allowed the ship’s passengers to disembark and get charter flights out of the Aloha State.

Want more news and tips from TPG? Sign up for our free daily newsletter. 

Related: Big cruise companies can survive shutdown lasting many months, analyst says 

While the cruise industry has been hammered with bad news about virus outbreaks onboard and worries about financial health (just this week, the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line warned that its survival was in “substantial doubt” if it didn’t get an infusion of liquidity), I foresee the cruise industry bouncing back before other travel segments like airlines and hotels.

Cruises are mostly leisure-based, and if there’s anything building right now, it’s the urge to go on a relaxing trip — especially an affordable one. A lack of business travel will keep the airlines and hotels crippled for years, conventions are totally off the table for the time being, and most airlines and hotel chains simply can’t operate on leisure travelers alone. While those companies are planning fleet retirements and employee furloughs, I see a much brighter future for the cruise industry. Here’s why.

1. A controlled, and potentially safe, environment

If cruise lines can get fast and accurate testing for coronavirus and its antibodies, they could essentially create “safe” ships that allow people to enjoy their trip without social distancing. In comparison to a resort — which has guests, vendors and employees coming and going — it is theoretically easier to contain a ship that spends much of its time isolated from the rest of the world. On land, we will likely have to practice some form of social distancing until there’s a vaccine. After all, it is highly unlikely we will have enough testing capacity for everyone, every single day, and it’s unclear whether people would even agree to it. On a cruise ship, if passengers and crew get tested as they board and at various points throughout the journey, the lines can create a safe zone within a controlled environment. Cruise ships could become safe places to see a Broadway-style show, gamble in a casino or enjoy a spa treatment. I can foresee cruises avoiding ports where the risk of contracting the virus is higher and instead opting to use their own private islands, where all visitors and imports would be from virus-free ships. Royal Caribbean vessels, for instance, could spend more time at the line’s Perfect Day at CocoCay in the Bahamas, which offers lovely beaches, a waterpark with 13 waterslides and the biggest freshwater pool anywhere in the Bahamas or Caribbean.

Related: 9 ways cruising will be different when it starts up again 

2. Hard-core loyalty

Cruisers are among the most loyal travelers out there. Sure, you’ll find plenty of TPG readers who are obsessed with Delta or their Hyatt Globalist status, but just talk to a frequent cruiser and it’s a whole different ballgame. Cruise companies focus on the entire experience for all passengers, unlike airlines and hotels who care most about elites. Plus, they’re loyal without the hugely lucrative loyalty programs that airlines and hotels offer. There is something about cruising that people who love it deeply connect with. That passion has allowed the industry to grow faster than almost any other travel segment, and it isn’t going to go away with COVID-19.

3. A forward-looking group of travelers

Travelers have short memories. The COVID-19 crisis is not the first tragedy to hit the cruise lines or even the first outbreak. Fourteen people from the Diamond Princess ship have died due to COVID-19, but 32 people died in the Costa Concordia disaster in 2012, when that ship struck a rock formation off the coast of Italy. While the two incidents vary greatly in nature, the point is that people kept cruising, even after terrible incidents. COVID19 has thus far been a mysterious, fast-spreading virus that has perplexed the world’s scientific community. As we learn more about how to track it and manage it, people will feel more comfortable going back out to sea.

4. Affordability

Cruises are affordable. Given the current economic downturn, with an estimated 16% unemployment (and likely to be much higher) and an unknown timeline for a turnaround, people want affordable travel — and cruises deliver. Cruises scheduled to sail in August can be found for as low as $21 a night. Even if testing isn’t as widespread as it could be, I can foresee people taking the risk to travel for such a low price. Of course, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. The final price of a cruise, after drink packages and other extras, could be much more than a low-priced hotel room.

Related: How to save money on a cruise

Related: How to book a cruise using miles and points

5. There’s something for everyone

After months of being holed up at home and isolated from extended family, I foresee a spike in inter-generational travel. Cruises make it easy to satisfy everyone’s needs, whether you’re traveling with toddlers, your grandparents or both. New ships have amazing perks for all ages – Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas and Norwegian’s Breakaway-Plus class ships combine attractions like high-speed go-karts and sky-diving simulators with private beach clubs and elevated cuisine. Unlike airlines, which are parking their big, expensive planes, I foresee cruise lines using their nicest and biggest ships to lure people back on board with experiences they can’t get elsewhere. The first three cruises I went on were with my ex-boyfriend’s mom, who was a widow. Her Christmas gift to us each year was a cruise with her, since he was an only child. It was a great way to spend time with her (in manageable doses) and also for us to be able to have our own time to do cool things. We had done other trips to exotic locations — Buenos Aires, for example — and the cruises were much less stressful. After all, we didn’t have to worry about her keeping up or worry about her being safe and entertained on days we wanted to be separate. Simply put, being on a cruise was fun and easy to manage.

Related: Yes, people still are booking cruises. Just not as much as you’ve heard 

In conclusion…

I’m not a frequent cruiser — I’ve been on five or so in my life. But I’m confident the industry will learn from this crisis and make cruising safer than it ever has been. Cleaning procedures should address COVID-19, but also norovirus and other public health threats we’ll face in the future. While you probably won’t see me on a mega-ship anytime soon, I am interested in trying out Virgin Voyages (if and when it launches…) and also some smaller luxury ships that go to unique destinations like Antarctica and the Galapagos. And maybe I’ll just have to take the Queen Mary 2 on my next trip to visit the TPG U.K. team, since it’s technically not a cruise ship but an ocean liner.

If there’s one thing this crisis has taught me, it is patience, so the idea of spending nearly a week sailing from NYC to the U.K. is not the drag I once thought it would be!

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Featured image courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Lines.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.