Skip to content

Why you may have a tough time finding a cabin when cruising in North America resumes

Feb. 27, 2021
6 min read
Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship, Norwegian Encore, has room for 4,004 passengers at double occupancy.
Why you may have a tough time finding a cabin when cruising in North America resumes
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.

Eager to be aboard one of the very first cruises when cruising resumes in North America? You'll be lucky if you get a cabin.

When cruise lines initially restart operations out of U.S. ports, presumably later this year, they are likely to only restart with a few ships, each operating at only partial capacity, executives at all the major cruise lines have said. That'll create a squeeze on the number of available cabins that could make it hard for would-be cruisers to find space.

Indeed, the squeeze could be so sharp that some people who currently have bookings on ships for later this year might find their reservations canceled out from under them due to limited capacity, a top industry executive suggested on Thursday.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's new cruise newsletter

"We’re not going to be able to start (with) all 28 vessels," Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings president and CEO Frank Del Rio told Wall Street analysts during a conference call to discuss quarterly earnings. "It’s going to be ... maybe one (ship launching) a week, something like that, which means that there’s going to be a lot of customers who are booked today who will be displaced."

It'll be a situation of "excess bookings, if you will, at the beginning," Del Rio said.

Del Rio said the displacement of customers with confirmed bookings for the initial period after cruising resumes will take two forms. Some passengers will have their reservations canceled outright and receive a refund. Others will be moved from ships that aren't yet operating to others that are.

"People will move from the Norwegian Jewel in Alaska to the Norwegian Bliss in Alaska, or they’ll move from the Oceania Riviera in Europe to the Oceania Marina in Europe," he said.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

Sign up for our daily newsletter
Norwegian Cruise Line's 3,998-passenger Norwegian Encore. (Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line as well as sister brands Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Del Rio suggested the number of bookings the company has taken for cruises during the third quarter of this year already outstrips the likely supply of cabins that it will have available if cruising has resumed by then.

"We believe that there are enough bookings today (that) if we never took another booking, let’s say, for (the third quarter), assuming a reduced capacity at the start, we don’t have to take any more bookings for (the third quarter)," he said.

As more ships come on line in the months after a cruising restart, the cabin-availability squeeze will ease and fewer customers will be displaced, Del Rio told the analysts. Eventually, the company will hit an equilibrium point where supply catches up with demand.

Related: The ultimate guide to Norwegian Cruise Line

"There’ll be a rebalancing, if you will, at some point, where we do need to start taking more bookings, but my guess is that that will be beginning month three, four (after the restart)," he said.

An initial imbalance between supply and demand for cruises is one reason that pricing for cruises for the second half of this year and into 2022 has remained high.

Echoing comments by Royal Caribbean Group executives earlier in the week, Del Rio said bookings for the coming year currently are "well ahead" of where they normally are for this time of year at prices that are "inline to up mid-single digits," when excluding the dilutive impact of future cruise certificates.

Del Rio noted that Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings hadn't yet received guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on how much it would need to curtail capacity on ships when cruising initially resumes. The CDC regulates cruise ships operating out of U.S. ports and is establishing guidelines for how cruise ships will be allowed to return to service.

"For our own internal working purposes, we assume that at the beginning that maximum occupancy will be in the 50% range," he said. But in theory it could be more or less.

Related: A line-by-line guide to canceled sailings

The initial level of such capacity restrictions could have a significant impact on the initial supply-and-demand situation for cruises when cruising resumes.

Del Rio made the comments in part in response to questions from Wall Street analysts as to just how strong demand was for cruising in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

His responses to such questions were upbeat.

"Of all the things we worry about, filling vessels, generating demand just isn’t one of them," he said in response to a question about demand from a Goldman Sachs analyst. "We don’t have a short-term issue ... and longer-term business is better than ever."

Another question from a Tigress Financial analyst prompted Del Rio to note that 30 million people who expected to cruise over the past year hadn't been able to do it, creating unprecedented pent-up demand for cruises.

"This is a finite-capacity business. I can’t cruise with 150% occupancy. So there’s going to be a squeeze play here," he said. "You've got less supply. You've got pent-up demand. You’ve got people with money in their pocket. I think this is just the making of a boom time for the cruise industry."

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image by NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023