While the luxury brands were hit by the crisis situation in different ways, all of them faced similar challenges, which included service suspension, travel restrictions and change of the public’s perception, according to executives speaking in Miami last week.
The cruise lines, however, managed to emerge stronger and more prepared, learning from the issues, including one new brand that is set to debut in 2023.
Chris Austin, U.S. Chief Sales Officer for Explora Journeys, MSC Cruises’ new luxury brand, pointed to MSC’s restart in Europe, which pioneered the cruise service resumption globally.
“There will be learning from that, which obviously Explora Journeys will be able to embrace,” he said.
While the design for MSC’s new luxury brand and product began before the pandemic, the current situation may lead to changes in the final outcome.
“The requirement for privacy has elevated,” Austin said, noting the importance of designing ships that can deliver it, using, for example, “access to smaller spaces.”
“I think we used our time very wisely during all that (period),” he added.
Silversea Cruises, on the other hand, had two ships in final stages of construction when the pandemic first broke.
Dealing with it during the period was “quite different,” according to Roberto Martinoli, Silversea’s President and CEO.
With travel restrictions in place, technicians who would usually go aboard the ships to evaluate systems and equipment had to do so through video calls, he said.
By working with those solutions, the vessels were delivered without “much delay,” Martinoli noted.
“It’s been a learning curve but the most significant thing, was to see the flexibility of the shipyards, who were able to continue the construction processes with a lot of challenges, using these new ways of doing business,” he added.
Delivered in 2020, both the Silver Origin and the Silver Moon only saw their first groups of passengers in mid-2021.
“The weird thing was to have a brand-new ship delivered to you and have nothing to do with it … we had to understand how to manage that, a way to lay them up, waiting for things to go back to normal,” he said.
Ponant’s Americas CEO, Navin Sawhney highlighted the role of the industry’s crew members during the pandemic period.
“We are all very grateful to have people who are passionate about becoming part of the cruise business and rise to the occasion, sometimes in quite short notice and going through enormous amounts of regulations,” he said.
The biggest takeaway of the pandemic, Sawhney noted, might be an opportunity to reflect on the present and future of the industry.
“Half a century ago, people gave up on cruise and didn’t think the line of business would survive,” he said.
“And yet cruising rose and, by itself, has adapted and expanded in so many different ways,” he continued, citing large ships, expedition ships, family cruising and more. “That’s a tremendous testament of the resiliency of our industry.”