What happened

Cruise operators, and their stocks, have been some of the hardest hit businesses by the pandemic. Exactly one year after the stock market bottom, cruise line stocks have bounced back in the form of doubles and triples off of their lows. 

But even as vaccine rollouts grow, timeframes for returning ships to sea continue to be extended, and cruise stocks are reflecting that today. As of 2:45 p.m. EDT Tuesday, shares of several cruise stocks were down:

  • Royal Caribbean (RCL 3.74%) was down 6%.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH 5.09%) was down 7.1%.
  • Carnival (CCL 8.18%) (CUK 8.93%) was down 7.7%.

So what

Yesterday, Carnival disappointed European vacationers expecting to ship out later this week when it announced one of its global cruise brands was pushing back plans of restarting operations by another month. Royal Caribbean, which has continued to raise money to bolster its balance sheet this month, also reassigned the home port of one of its ships to the Bahamas to be able to schedule a Caribbean cruise for June. 

Royal Caribbean ship with tug boat approaching port

Image source: Royal Caribbean.

Now what

Even as progress continues with vaccinations, the cruise industry continues to suffer as new COVID-19 case levels remain stubbornly high in the U.S., and European countries are reimplementing restriction rules. Carnival's Italian Costa Cruises has now pushed back its plans for restarting operations by another month. Costa had planned to resume service beginning March 27, but that has now been pushed back to May 1. The company said in a statement, "The decision has been taken in consideration of the restrictions still in place in Italy and other European countries."

Even as Norwegian Cruise Line announced record interest and bookings into next year and beyond, the company extended the suspension for all its trips through June 30. Royal Caribbean recently gave customers mixed news. It reset the port of call for its Adventure of the Seas ship to Nassau, in the Bahamas. By doing so, vacationers will be able to set sail again on the ship for seven-night cruises starting in June. The trips will initiate from the ship's new home port and take an itinerary that brings vacationers to islands including Royal Caribbean's private island Perfect Day at CocoCay, and then to Grand Bahama Island and Cozumel, Mexico. Health protocols will be required on the trips, and participants also must meet the travel requirements of the Bahamas.

In the U.S., cruise operators continue to wait for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's conditional sail order to be updated to possibly allow restarts out of domestic ports prior to the current Nov. 1 date. In the meantime, investors are oscillating between the expected business recoveries and continued pauses in the process. Today the cruise line stocks took another step back.