Covid-19 cases on Royal Caribbean Group cruise ships of the Omicron variant are on the decline.
During Royal Caribbean Group’s fourth quarter earnings call on Friday, cruise line executives spoke about the relatively low number of Covid cases on board cruise ships compared to the land-based company, as well as the causes cases to decline as Omicron reaches its peak.
Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty opened the call with investors talking about the last quarter and how well its health protocols have done to keep the vast majority of its passengers safe.
The cruise industry was firmly in the crosshairs of national media coverage last month when Covid cases began to board.
While the media obsessed over new cases on ships for a few weeks, since then cases have dropped significantly. Few outlets have bothered to inform their audiences of this improvement with the same tenacity as negative coverage.
Mr Liberty proudly shared the dizzying fall in cases: “The good news is that over the past few weeks cases on board our ships have declined rapidly and we are now back to exceptionally low levels from before the outbreak. Omicron.
He shared that over the past seven days, Royal Caribbean Group has averaged only “a handful of positive guest cases per cruise.”
Mr Liberty said that while Omicron was ‘particularly painful’, it appears to be behind the company, ‘although the variant is not done, it appears the worst is behind us’.
With Omicron hitting or exceeding its peak, new cruise ship bookings are on the rise again.
“During the last week of January, bookings returned to pre-Omicron levels,” Liberty said. “We expect the recovery in demand to accelerate as the variant declines.”
Mr Liberty attributes the fact that Covid cases have remained lower on cruise ships compared to cases ashore to the protocols Royal Caribbean Group has adopted.
“Our rigorous health and safety protocols, with a 100% vaccination rate among our crew and a near 100% vaccination rate among our guests, provide a safe environment where we can fulfill our mission to provide amazing vacations. .”
“Our goal has been to make cruising one of the safest vacations in the world while providing an exceptional guest experience.”
The company has been able to meet that target by carrying around 1.3 million guests since cruises restarted, and having only around 2,500 guests test positive for Covid-19.
This represents a positivity rate of 0.19%.
“This positivity rate is still a small fraction of what it is in mainstream society, and almost all of the cases on board were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.”
Mr. Liberty went on to point out that cruise line health protocols far exceed hotel and resort protocols: “A few weeks ago, the CDC’s conditional sailing order expired, demonstrating the agency’s confidence in the overall effectiveness of the cruise industry’s health and safety protocols.”
“Our own protocols continue to go above and beyond anything the setting provided and what consumers will find in any hospitality setting.”
When will the health protocols disappear?
In case you missed our other article on this, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley spoke about when the health protocols could be rolled back.
He thinks Covid cases continue to drop, Royal Caribbean will work with the CDC to remove the protocols, “I think what we’ll see is when we get into that environment we’ll start working with the CDC. “
“We will start to remove many protocols that exist today, and it will become easier and simpler for our customers.”
Booking trends of new cruisers versus regular cruisers
Another question Wall Street investors wanted to know concerns booking trends between new cruisers and major customers.
Mr Bayley explained just before Omicron that the number of bookings was becoming quite significant, “As we enter the fourth quarter of last year, our bookings have started to exceed 2019 levels, both in volume and in rate”.
With the Delta and Omicron variants, the repeat customer would dramatically increase new bookings as cruise newcomers slowly regained confidence in booking vacations.
“In terms of new cruises and loyalty, loyalty has certainly led the way…new cruises have lagged, I would say, four to six weeks when we look at our data.”
“When we came out of Delta, the loyalty was heavily skewed at first, then new cruisers started coming back and they started coming back to normal levels.”
Mr Bayley thinks Royal Caribbean International is particularly attractive to new cruisers in the United States because of the new ships combined with short cruises.
He also believes that Perfect Day at CocoCay plays a major role in attracting new cruise passengers. “We have Perfect Day, as we know, an incredibly popular destination and is already generating significant demand with a premium with new cruises.”
In short, Mr Bayley feels cruise bookings are lagging when Omicron comes out, but they are confident it will come back based on what happened with the Delta variant.
Wall Street has also wanted to know who is canceling cruises, and unsurprisingly the cancellations are linked to covid cases.
Mr Liberty explained: “The majority of people who canceled were people who had tested positive for Covid before going sailing or a family member who was traveling with them had tested positive for Covid.”
“We’ve seen some of our customers move their bookings from late December, early January to future periods.”