The president of Carnival Corporation is hopeful of a restart of cruising in the US by Christmas but stressed public health will always take priority over resuming business.

Arnold Donald said cruise’s experience of dealing with viruses meant it was well-positioned to manage the Covid-19 virus long-term.

“Of course we hope for it [a restart by Christmas],” he said, when asked about the prospect of a return before the end of 2020.

“With the way things are trending, the virus spreads east to west. So you seen some activity now in continental Europe. Hopefully soon in the UK. The mitigation of spread has been moving in the right direction. And hopefully that will translate in the recovery here [the US] as well. We are optimistic.”

Noting that Carnival’s brands are based all over the world, he added: “We are looking at restart plans under different scenarios” which “always have public health at the forefront”

“Our top priorities are always compliance, environmental protection and the health, safety and wellbeing of our guests, the people in the places we go and our own people,” Donald added.

Asked if lines such as Cunard or Seabourn could face setbacks on their future world cruises because of changing restrictions in different countries, he said: “The future of cruising is bright. Right now we are I this moment in time, Just a few months ago there was so little known still about the virus, and what to do and how to manage and mitigate it.

“Every destination is going to make its own decision in its own time, so it’s prudent to give guests some planning time if we’re unsure about where we can go. But, over time, cruise is the best vacation experience there is and its one of the absolute best vacation values there is. People want to travel and experience places and cultures – and that’s what we do.”

Noting the cruise sector has “dealt with viruses in the past” such as Sars, Zika, Mers and Ebola, Donald said: “Once this is understood, and the world understands how to manage it – people will travel and we’ll be fine.”

However, he accepted now was a “very trying time for the travel industry, and not just cruise” and said “we have to weather this storm”.

“But once we get through it we’ll be back to happy days again,” Donald said.