Cruising back from the brink


Cruising back from the brink

After a year of terrible headlines and soaring losses, cruise lines are showing signs of an unlikely resurgence

Alice Hancock

Richard Branson’s timing could not have been worse. It was February 2020 and the first of his new Virgin cruise fleet was sailing across the Atlantic to start her maiden voyage when a then-mysterious and deadly virus ground the industry to a sudden halt.

Coronavirus had broken out on a ship from rival US cruise line Carnival and was sweeping through its guests. Stricken passengers were photographed peering out of portholes as the world’s media branded cruise ships “floating Petri dishes”. Successive governments barred them from landing at their ports. The Virgin ship, Scarlet Lady, doubled back to where she was built in Genoa, Italy, which is where she has remained since.

“It’s truly a nightmare [for the industry]. Scarlet Lady was delivered a year ago ... and hasn’t taken a passenger yet,” says Nigel Thomas, chair and maritime partner at London-based law firm Watson Farley & Williams...

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