Brighter times ahead for passenger cruises

article picture: Brighter times ahead for passenger cruises

Cruise lines and cruise ferries were seriously affected by Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns and other restrictions, but some glints of a better future can already be seen on the horizon. Numbers of cruise ship passengers are gradually showing signs of increasing. Even so, there’s still a long way to go.

At the end of April 2022, the annual cruise line business conference Seatrade Cruise Global (SCG) was arranged in Miami, Florida. The participants discussed the current state of business, as well as future prospects and developmental ideas.

For obvious reasons, the emphasis of the discussions was focused on the Covid-19 pandemic. The Cruise Line Industrial Association (CLIA) members gravely enumerated the pandemic’s effects on the cruise line industries but – on a more positive note – also had some optimism for business recovery in the foreseeable future.

In the two years of Covid-19 pandemic, cruise lines suffered considerably more from the restrictions and business disruptions than other business sectors related to tourism. According to CLIA, this was largely due to massive amounts of infections aboard cruise ships, and the resulting negative publicity. Still, cruise lines did their best to ensure the health and safety of passengers.

In the recent months, cruise lines have already started on the path to recovery, but there have been some regional differences. Europe and the U.S. have seen positive progress, while cruise lines in China are still in lockdown mode, due to China’s national zero-tolerance policies. Considerable caution can also be noted in other Asian and Pacific areas.

Still, according to CLIA’s estimates, cruise ships may operate on an average passenger capacity of 92 percent already in July 2022. Globally, shipyards now have 77 new cruise ships under construction. A passenger-capacity increase of 4.7 million can be expected by the year 2026.



Cruise industries have started to recover from Covid-19 problems in Northern Europe, too.

For instance, the cruise ferry company Tallink Group that operates largely in the Baltic Sea region announced in April an increase in the number of cruise passengers in the first quarter of 2022, compared to the same period in the year 2021.

From January to March, the company carried a total of 720,261 passengers. This means an increase of 169.5 percent from Q1/2021.

”Of course, the numbers of passengers are still lower than in the pre-pandemic era, but things are gradually beginning to go in the right direction,” notes Ms. Marika Nöjd, Communications Director for Tallink Silja Oy.

”Some of our routes – e.g. between Stockholm and Riga – have not yet been opened after the pandemic, while some others now have only reduced traffic. At the moment, only one ship is operational on the route between Stockholm and Tallinn.”

However, Tallink Silja’s routes from Finland to Sweden and Estonia are being operated normally.

”In April 2022, our routes between Finland and Estonia carried 250,000 passengers, while three years earlier – in April 2019 – the number was 390,000. We still have some catching up to do, but the passenger numbers are on a steady upward curve,” explains Nöjd.


On cruise ferry routes between Finland and Sweden, the passenger numbers yield even more evidence of imminent recovery.

”For April 2022, passengers on these routes totaled 175,000, whereas in April 2019 Tallink Silja’s cruise ships carried 240,000 passengers. Here, things are looking up already,” Nöjd rejoices.

”Towards the summer, the cruise line business will undoubtedly recover even more rapidly. As we speak, passenger reservations for the summer are being made at a good pace. Besides, many passengers typically will reserve the cruise at the last moment.”

Many of Tallink Group’s cruise line routes are relatively short in duration. Even if another Covid-19 surge should appear within the next months, it would not interrupt the cruises as seriously as would be the case for the operators of intercontinental cruises.

”If passengers stay on board for a two-night cruise, no long-term isolations or quarantines would be necessary,” Nöjd expects.

Also, more and more passengers now have full vaccination coverage. This, too, has reduced the need for new quarantines.


When the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted the cruise business, Tallink Silja sold or leased out some of the company’s cruise ships, though not those utilised on the most popular routes.

”However, Rauma Marine Constructions RMC shipyard in Rauma, Finland, is already making the finishing touches on our new cruise ship, M/S MyStar. She will be delivered in early autumn of 2022 and will start operations on the Helsinki to Tallinn route,” Nöjd recounts.

The new ship will operate along Tallink’s current ship M/S Megastar that started her cruises in early 2017.

”At the moment, we have no other plans for ordering cruise ships, but this new vessel will prepare us for the postpandemic future. Come what may, we are facing it with careful optimism,” asserts Nöjd.

by Ari Monenen
pictures by Tallink Silja

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Seatec 1/2023


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