By Jonathan Levin (Bloomberg) — President Donald Trump said the country’s biggest cruise lines will suspend operations for a month at his request, marking the most sweeping response yet by the industry after a series of coronavirus outbreaks at sea.
In a tweet late Friday, Trump said the shutdown will include market-share leader Carnival Corp., as well as Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd., Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and MSC Cruises.
At my request, effective midnight tonight, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and MSC have all agreed to suspend outbound cruises for thirty days. It is a great and important industry – it will be kept that way!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 13, 2020
Trump made clear that the action was taken “at my request,” even though Norwegian and Royal Caribbean had earlier announced “voluntary” suspensions.
The cruise industry has been slow to respond to the crisis, even though cases of Covid-19 turned up more than a month ago, starting on a Princess ship operated by Carnival Corp.
The highly publicized cases left the industry struggling to demonstrate that it’s safe. The shutdowns appeared to signal that hygiene on ships needs to be improved and that the vacationing public needs to be reassured.
The trade group Cruise Lines International Association, whose members make up about 90% of cruise capacity, said the 30-day suspension applied to all of its members and all U.S. ports of call.
Many ships, however, remain at sea, and carriers indicated Friday they would assist passengers with travel arrangements home.
Earlier this week, the State Department warned Americans to avoid cruising, but many cruise fans flouted the warnings. Princess was the first of the big players to announce a shutdown, saying it will stand down for two months.
Until Friday, the industry’s actions paled beside those of other businesses, including professional sports leagues’ decisions to put their seasons on hold and protect fans from arenas where the disease might spread more easily.
Two outbreaks of coronavirus on Princess ships have strained public health resources and convulsed the industry, sending stocks plummeting.
The first Princess ship, Diamond Princess, was under a lengthy quarantine in Yokohama, Japan, with more than 700 people aboard testing positive for the virus. The Grand Princess docked Monday in Oakland, California, and had 21 confirmed cases.
Norwegian shares rose 15% to $11.10 Friday. Shares of Carnival, the industry’s biggest player, advanced 17% to $17.58, while Royal Caribbean shares gained 6.8% to $32.33, but the gains only helped recoup a fraction of the selloff since January.© 2019 Bloomberg L.P