COVID killed the cruise industry? Hardly. Carnival posts record, Disney readies 25th anniversary event

by | Nov 29, 2022

  • Carnival Cruise Line reported a record-breaking Cyber Monday that beat 2019’s record by 50 percent
  • The company has also set other sales records this year
  • Disney Cruises also appears to be on the rebound, doubling its revenue over last year
  • For 2023, Disney announced a 25th anniversary celebration for its cruise business with special events, merchandise and other offerings

Things are looking up for the cruise industry. Carnival Cruise Lines posted a record-breaking Cyber-Monday sales day that far exceeded pre-pandemic numbers, an indicator that passenger bookings are finally back to normal.

Like every other cruise line during the pandemic, Carnival took a hit to the bottom line that nearly devastated the company. Carnival reported revenue losses of $10 billion by the end of 2020 that forced it to sell six of its less profitable ships. And just to keep the rest of the fleet afloat, Carnival was burning through $250 million per month while the pandemic raged and no hint of when cruise ship operators would finally get to return to sea.

That finally changed in mid-2021, when the ports were reopened and sailings resumed. But it’s been a slow-slog to return to “normal” and we still might not be there yet.

But Carnival’s Cyber-Monday event is the latest data point that things are looking up. Monday’s sales level exceeded 2019’s Cyber Monday sales by 50 percent, and the company credits an innovative marketing campaign for some of its success.

“The Cyber Monday sale activity showed consumer demand across the fleet,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line.  “Our very successful naming ceremony for Carnival Celebration on November 20 and all the media coverage it generated clearly kept Carnival top-of-mind as vacationers got started on their holiday shopping yesterday.”

Other data points back the notion that the company is starting to turn the corner. Carnival was the first to get its entire fleet of 26 ships back into operation, and previously reported that the one-week period of March 28th through April 3rd 2022 set a record for the busiest booking week in the company’s history, a double-digit increase from the previous record seven-day booking total. The company also says it now has more passenger capacity currently sailing than it had in 2019.

And Carnival isn’t the only company popping champagne corks. Disney Cruise Lines, celebrating its 25th year in operation, unveiled plans for a series of special events themed as its “Silver Anniversary at Sea” promotion. The company says the limited-time event, running from May through September 2023, will feature “special entertainment, merchandise and celebratory experiences” on select summer sailings next year.

“For two-and-a-half decades, Disney Cruise Line has built an incredible legacy of creating unforgettable vacation memories for families around the world,” said Sharon Siskie, senior vice president and general manager, Disney Cruise Line. “Of course, at the heart of this anniversary celebration are our dedicated cast and crew members who continuously deliver legendary service and create magic at sea for our guests every day. Whether returning as a member of our Castaway Club or sailing with us for the first time, we are thrilled to invite guests of all ages to be a part of our very special anniversary festivities next summer.”

Features of the select cruises will include “dazzling” new specially-designed outfits for Mickey and Minnie, a signature sound track, new evening experiences, culinary creations and “fanciful desserts,” as well as family entertainment themed around the anniversary. There will also be special package deals for guests, according to a Disney press release.

Compared with Carnival, the much-smaller Disney Cruise Line pandemic impact was a net loss of just $255 million, but like its larger competitor, Disney appears to have regained its footing. While specific info about the cruise segment’s profitability hasn’t been made public, Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products segment, which includes Disney Cruise Line, saw revenues for the first quarter 2022 increased to $6.7 billion compared to $3.2 billion in the prior-year quarter. In the third quarter, which ended in August, the division increased revenue to $7.4 billion compared to $4.3 billion in the prior-year quarter.

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