2020 was set to be an incredible year for the industry. A multitude of new ships were set to debut, including the Mardi Gras from Carnival, the Odyssey of the Seas from Royal Caribbean, the Iona from P&O, the Scarlet Lady from the new Virgin Voyages, and many more. New terminals, corporate offices, and destinations were set to be built around the world, and there was nothing that could stop us, or so we thought.
March 2020, sailings were cancelled, ships returned to port to disembark guests, gangways were retracted, terminal doors shut, ships dropped anchors and spent their time floating offshore with only crew members. What was expected to be a 30 day shut down turned into 60 days, then 90, soon six months, now a year or more.
Cruise Lines turned to airlines and chartered entire aircrafts to send their beloved crewmembers home to their families but were met with disorganization and many crew members being turned away from their home countries. The industry then pulled off the most extensive repatriation effort in history to get the thousands of seafarers home. Competitor cruise lines assisted each other with getting their crewmembers safely home. This repatriation effort involved many cruise ships sailing transatlantic from the Americas to Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia Pacific, and Australia regions. Once most crew members were finally home, all cruise ships reverted into warm and cold layup status, keeping only essential crew members onboard. Ships dropped their anchors once again, and there they remain.
As operational shutdowns continued to be extended, cash burn continued to rise, and revenue dwindled, cruise lines resorted to shedding some of their vessels to ensure a future. Some ships sailed directly to the scrapyard, and others were sold to various buyers to sail under a different brand, convert to floating hotels, and other multiple uses.
Corporate offices shut their doors and quickly shifted to remote working for all shoreside employees. Remote working turned to furloughs, then soon after an astonishingly high lay-off rate for most cruise lines. We saw most of our colleagues forced to seek employment in other industries or lose their job from the uncertainty of the return to service timeline. Being in an industry full of professionals who simply love what they do and are so passionate, this was heartbreaking to witness and still, to this day, is hard to process.
So we are all happy to bid 2020 farewell, but our uphill battle to return to service will continue, and we will be back.