What happened

Cruise ship stocks climbed on Thursday even as U.S. financial markets sank. As of 2:10 p.m. EDT, shares of Carnival (CCL 7.99%) (CUK 8.79%), Royal Caribbean (RCL 3.96%), and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH 5.43%) were up 6%, 4%, and 4%, respectively. The gains were driven in part by Carnival's plans to resume sailings out of Italy this weekend.

So what 

Carnival-owned Costa Cruises will restart voyages out of Italy on Sep. 6. Carnival also plans for its AIDA Cruises brand to resume operations out of Germany on Nov. 1. The restart will be gradual, with limited ships, reduced passenger capacity, and enhanced safety measures -- all of which are designed to reduce the probability of more COVID-19 outbreaks aboard Carnival's ships. 

A cruise ship is sailing in the ocean.

Cruise ships are preparing to set sail once again. Image source: Getty Images.

Investors celebrated the news. The voyages are seen as progress toward a recovery for the beleaguered cruise ship industry, which has seen Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian incur billions of dollars of losses during the coronavirus pandemic.

Now what 

With voyages set to commence, the question now is: Will enough people book cruise vacations? While positive developments in the war against COVID-19 -- such as new diagnostic tests and progress toward a vaccine -- have helped to boost investors' optimism for a recovery, coronavirus case counts remain alarmingly high in the U.S. and around the world. Until the dangerous disease is contained, cruises -- and by extension, cruise ship stocks -- remain risky bets.