One by one, major cruise lines are halting operations and mothballing ships as they face biggest challenge since 9/11
It is close to peak season at Port Everglades, Floridas second-busiest cruise port, yet an air of deep anxiety hangs over the deserted quaysides and departure terminals. With all major cruise lines shuttering operations, countries closing ports to large passenger ships and thousands of workers laid off indefinitely, the $45bn (35.6bn) US cruise industry is struggling to plot a course through the rough waters of the coronavirus crisis.
One by one, the big cruise operators announced they were halting operations and mothballing ships, beginning with Princess Cruises, one of Port Everglades biggest clients with 18 vessels, Viking Cruises and Disney Cruise Lines on Thursday. Others had fallen into line by Saturday morning. Normally bustling ports including Miami, Port Canaveral, Galveston, New York, Seattle and New Orleans went silent for the first time since the days following 9/11.
The value of the three biggest US cruise lines, Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, has continued to tumble on Wall Street to the point of flat-out ridiculous, according to market analyst Rick Munarriz of the Motley Fool.
On Thursday shares of Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines, owners of Princess, plummeted more than 31%, two days after Royal Caribbean withdrew its own market predictions and rearranged finances to increase liquidity by half a billion dollars. Reports of layoffs of port workers, cruise line contractors and crew, and hotel workers came in thick and fast.