Top cruise line executive: We’ll be back to full deployment within a year
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.
But one of the industry’s longest-serving executives on Thursday said he expected his brand, at least, to be back to full deployment by a year from now.
“Our ambition is to be fully operational by October (of 2021), even as soon as next summer,” Rick Sasso, chairman of MSC Cruises North America, said during a panel discussion at Seatrade Cruise Virtual, an online version of the cruise industry’s annual meetup.
For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s new cruise newsletter
While a return to full deployment by next summer is possible, it would “depend on other events that we don’t control,” Sasso noted during the session, which was the closing event for the four-day cruise conference. The session was titled “This Time Next Year: A No-Holds-Barred Look into the Crystal Ball from Some of Cruising’s Most Forward-Thinking Leaders.”
In general, Sasso — a 49-year veteran of the cruise industry who has seen it all — was highly optimistic about a strong rebound of cruising over the coming year.
“This will evolve, and it will evolve quicker than we would have assumed even a month ago,” he said.
MSC Cruises North America is the North American division of MSC Cruises, one of the few major cruise lines that already has restarted limited sailings.
The Europe-based brand on Aug. 16 became the first major cruise line to restart sailings in the Mediterranean since the cruising shutdown began, with a single ship — the 4,842-passenger MSC Grandiosa.
Sasso noted that MSC Cruises planned to restart cruising with a second ship in the Mediterranean on Oct. 19. The line has 17 vessels.
“It certainly will be a gradual, staggered, evolving deployment schedule,” Sasso said. But he was optimistic the budding restart that’s been occurring in Europe and a few other places in recent months soon would spread everywhere in the world including North America.
“We hope that the North American deployment starts very soon,” he said.
Sasso wasn’t the only member of the panel who was upbeat about a strong comeback of cruising over the next 12 months.
Alex Sharpe, president and CEO of Signature Travel Network, one of North America’s largest travel agency networks, also was optimistic about a rebound of travel in general including cruising. He suggested that COVID restrictions only had made people want to travel more.
More Seatrade news: One cruise line says it may never bring back the buffet
“Travel becomes even more a need than a want or a luxury” Sharpe said. “It used to be that travel was lumped in with luxury goods. Now it’s really one of the core things that people and families in particular need.”
Sharpe said Signature Travel Network was seeing strong bookings for Europe and Alaska cruises for next summer.
“I do see Americans wanting desperately to get back to Europe, in particular,” Sharpe said. “I think European river cruising will lead that charge, because of the perception (the) smaller, more intimate, in-port-every-day-type of thing (is safer). We’re seeing it from a booking perspective. But I think that will just cascade into ocean cruising as well.”
More Seatrade news: Cruise executives sound off on a U.S. cruise comeback
Another panelist, Virgin Voyages senior vice president for design and customer experience Dee Cooper, said cruising would get a boost over the coming year by huge pent-up demand.
Virgin Voyages, a start-up line back by Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, was just about to unveil its first ship, Scarlet Lady, in Miami in March when the new coronavirus forced a postponement. It’s now scheduled to begin sailing later this year.
A second Virgin Voyages vessel, Valiant Lady, is scheduled to debut in 2021.
“I think the sad but great thing is there’s loads of untapped demand to go back sailing,” Cooper said. “The Virgin brand attracts a lot of people that love it. We have the cruisers that love getting on the new ships, and there’s loads of pent-up demand to get on those new ships.”
Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:
- The 5 most desirable cabin locations on any cruise ship
- The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
- A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
- 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
- 15 ways cruisers waste money
- 12 best cruises for people who never want to grow up
- What to pack for your first cruise
Featured image of courtesy of MSC Cruises
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants in the first three months of card membership.
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.
- Earn 50,000 Bonus Miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
- Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
- 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