The chiefs of the four leading cruise companies say they are “confident” cruising will resume from the US this year.

Speaking in the ‘State of the Global Cruise Industry’ session at the Seatrade Cruise Virtual conference, Carnival Corporation president and chief executive Arnold Donald said: “I’m a 4.5 to a 4.9 on the optimism scale [out of 5]. Cruise is going to stand out relative to other businesses with protocols that go well beyond what anybody else is doing.”

Royal Caribbean chairman and CEO Richard Fain said: “I am confident and optimistic. I don’t like putting numbers on things but I am smiling. We’ve made it very clear we want to get back to work and we have taken advantage of this lull to really study the science.

“Sailings that have already re-commenced in Europe have served as a testbed for us and have been very successful. We have 74 recommendations to follow from our Healthy Sail Panel and that gives us the confidence to come back safely.

“It will be a gradual return. We’ll do some test cruises and shorter cruises and gradually build up and I think this is going to start this year.”

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings president and chief executive Frank Del Rio added: “This is not a race. I’m in no rush to be first out of the gate. I want to cross all the ts and dot all the is. We have 74 recommendations to follow – that’s a tall order. But [the resumption of cruise from the US] is coming soon. Whether it’s December 22 or January 3, I think we’re in the ballpark and I think, if a couple of things go our way, we’ll be sailing again soon.”

Pierfrancesco Vago, chairman of MSC Cruises, said: “I am very optimistic in general. What we are doing as an industry with 100% testing is unique and amazing. There’s no other industry in travel or hospitality that is going to the local, regional and central level and engaging in the way the cruise sector is.

“Everybody is talking about vaccines, but they aren’t the magic wand. They are part of the solution, but testing will define exactly when we restart and I’m sure that all of this work that we’re presenting to the North American authorities cannot be ignored. It’s positive, professional, concrete and pragmatic.”