British cruise operator Cruise & Maritime Voyages has collapsed into administration, putting 4,000 jobs at risk and cancelling all customer bookings.
CMV is the first major British cruise company to go out of business, after Spain’s Pullmantur Cruises and Birka Cruises of Sweden also went under in recent weeks.
Its failure, announced last night, comes despite last-minute hopes of a rescue deal – with attempts to secure a cash injection from investors proving unsuccessful.
Bosses said the collapse would likely result in the company’s UK staff being made redundant and an ‘uncertain future’ for those in other parts of the business.
The industry fears up to 40,000 workers could lose their jobs due to the pandemic, but firms could be given the green light to welcome aboard passengers in October.
Cruise & Maritime Voyages, whose ship Columbus is above, has collapsed into administration
The Essex-based company said it had ceased trading and closed offices in Australia, France, the United States and Germany. The CMV cruise ship Marco Polo is pictured in the Kiel canal
Cruise firms have been under huge financial pressure since the coronavirus crisis began, with most voyages cancelled amid concerns about the pandemic spreading.
Last week the industry was dealt another blow when the Foreign Office advised travellers against all cruise travel, but later updated the policy to allow river cruises.
How post-Covid cruises will change: No buffets, reduced shore visits & temperature controls
Major cruise line companies are ditching self-service buffets while on-board entertainment could also be cut as part of a raft of changes to trips in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.
Guests and crew may also have to be tested for the virus in some cases, or at least pass through infrared controls so their temperature can be taken in a bid to reduce the risk of infections spreading.
Other measures include limiting passenger numbers and staggering boarding and disembarking to ensure there are fewer people at the terminals and gangways.
On the ships, hand sanitisers will be placed throughout, germ-killing air filters will be installed and occupation of lifts will be limited.
At least one cruise liner has had to cut back on its hospitality by axing plans for the traditional welcome with a free buffet whilst others say only staff will be allowed to serve food and never the passenger.
Top locations such as Spain still currently have a ban on any cruise liner entering its ports, with the government saying this will continue until ‘the end of the coronavirus crisis’, with no firm date yet specified.
Last night CMV administrator Paul Williams, of Duff & Phelps, said: ‘The travel, tourism and wider hospitality industry has been engulfed with a devastating and unprecedented global pandemic of seismic proportions impacting very hard on CMV’s once thriving cruise business compounded by last week’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advisory against cruise travel.’
And Christian Verhounig, CMV’s chief executive, added: ‘The directors have all worked tirelessly with CMV’s financial advisors, investment bankers, lawyers, and numerous private equity and hedge fund investors to try and secure the funding required to enable CMV to weather the storm.
‘Unfortunately, CMV was unable to conclude the funding within the timescales required which has led to the administration of the business.’
CMV suspended its worldwide cruise programme on March 13 through to August 25, affecting some 50,000 British and international passengers and dealing a major blow to its revenues.
The business was founded in 2009 and chief executive Christian Verhounig said it had enjoyed a record year in 2019.
But this had ‘tragically been cut short by this unprecedented global pandemic’.
‘We are truly sorry to our loyal and hard-working shoreside staff and seafarers, travel trade partners and suppliers who have all patiently stood by us and to our valued passengers for the disappointment and further disruption to their cruising holiday plans,’ he said.
CMV is believed to be the first major British cruise firm to collapse because of the virus crisis.
The cruise industry is worth £10billion a year to the UK and normally attracts more than two million customers from Britain and Ireland each year.
But since lockdown measures swept across Europe in March, most of the world’s cruise operators and their 400 ships have been unable to accept passengers.
Changing advice has infuriated hard-hit companies which have been busily making ships Covid-secure so they can quickly welcome back tourists after months sitting empty in port
A statement said all customer bookings that have not yet taken place have also been cancelled
It has dealt a serious financial blow to the companies, with Carnival – the world’s largest cruise provider – saying the cost of keeping all its vessels idle comes to almost £200 million per month.
The dire situation has wiped billions of pounds off the value of cruise operators, with shares in London-listed Carnival down by more than 70 per cent so far this year.
The company, which owns Princess Cruises, Cunard, P&O Cruises UK and Costa, has raised more than £3billion in emergency cash from bond markets to help keep itself afloat. Rival operator Norwegian also raised nearly £2billion from investors.
The Mail has highlighted the threat to the industry, while critics have claimed guidance against going on cruises is ‘illogical’ when tourists have been cleared to stay in hotels in many European destinations.
Timeline: How cruise ships became breeding grounds for Covid-19
- February 1: A man from Hong Kong who had travelled on the British-registered Diamond Princess between January 20 and January 25 tests positive for the virus after disembarking.
- February 4: Japanese public health officials carried out health checks on all guests and crew on board the Diamond Princess (DP) and confirmed 10 people tested positive for coronavirus. Those 10 patients were taken ashore to local hospitals and the ship was placed under quarantine in Yokohama for at least 14 days.
- February 9: An additional 66 cases of coronavirus were diagnosed aboard the DP, including one Briton.
- February 11: A further 39 positive cases were confirmed on board the DP
- February 12: Vulnerable passengers were allowed to leave the ship to complete their quarantine period on land.
- February 15: The US Department of State chartered a flight to bring all US passengers and crew back to America.
- February 16: New 67 cases were confirmed on board the DP.
- February 18: A total of 169 new positive cases were confirmed and scientists began questioning the decision of Japanese authorities to quarantine passengers on the ship, which was declared a breeding ground for infection.
- February 20: Two deaths of passengers confirmed from the virus. It came as around 600 passengers were the first to be cleared by the Japanese Ministry of Health and were allowed to leave the ship.
- February 23: Third death of a ship passenger confirmed.
- February 24: Death toll from infected passengers rose to four as another death was confirmed.
- February 26: Health officials said they contacted 813 former passengers of the vessel who had previously tested negative for the virus and left the ship but then found 45 were showing symptoms.
- February 27: All passengers on board the Diamond Princess disembarked from the vessel following quarantine. Around 500 crew awaited government charter flights and were quarantined at a facility in Japan.
- February 28: Fifth death confirmed as a Japanese woman in her 70s. Then the sixth death from the Diamond Princess infection and first Briton to die of coronavirus was announced.
- March 1: All passengers and crew disembarked the stricken cruise ship after a total 712 became infected and 14 people died.
- March 5: Passengers and crew aboard the Grand Princess, off the coast of California, were tested for coronavirus after previous passengers came down with symptoms. Twenty-one people tested positive.
- March 11: The ship went into quarantine off San Francisco for two weeks and a total seven people died and 122 became infected. By this time, small outbreaks had been reported on other cruise liners around the world.
- March 12: The British Foreign Office advises over-70s against going on cruises.
- March 13: Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC, Carnival Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Line announce they are suspending worldwide trips.
- March 18: The next big flare-up was aboard the Ruby Princess which on March 18 issues an urgent mayday call for an ambulance for two of its passengers presenting with coronavirus-like symptoms 24 hours before the ship is allowed to dock in Sydney.
- March 19: The Ruby Princess arrives in Sydney Harbour. More than 2,700 guests are allowed to disembark without adequate health checks.
- March 29: Several crew members are evacuated and taken to hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus.
- April 2: A 66-year-old crew member is taken off the Ruby Princess for medical treatment. More than 200 crew members are sick and in self-isolation.
- April 11: NSW Health confirms that at least 46 crew members of the Ruby Princess cruise ship have contracted COVID-19
- April 23: With 500 crew left on board, the Ruby Princess left Australian waters to sail to Manila in the Phillipines
- April 24: Twenty-two deaths in Australia and the US were believed to be related to the outbreak.
- June 1: Some river-going cruises start up again as the worldwide pandemic wanes.
- June 24: Cruise Lines International Association, which represents cruise companies, said its members would prologue suspension of ocean-going trips until September.
- July 9: Foreign Office advises all Britons against going on cruises.