People look out from aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, operated by Princess Cruises, as it maintains a holding pattern about 25 miles off the coast of San Francisco, California on March 8, 2020.
Josh Edelson | AFP | Getty Images
Princess Cruises, a Carnival Corporation brand, is resuming trips in its homeport of Japan early next year, the company said in a press release on Friday.
Starting March 15, the Diamond Princess will take off from Tokyo for cruises ranging from five to 19 days, according to the press release.
The return follows an announcement by the Japanese Transport Ministry last month that lifted a two-and-a-half-year ban on international cruise ships. The country’s new guidance requires crewmembers to have three Covid vaccine shots while most passengers must have at least two, the Associated Press reported.
“The reopening of Japanese ports to the international cruise industry is an important and welcome development that not only vastly expands the vacation opportunities available to guests but also helps to significantly strengthen the Japanese tourism economy,” said John Padgett, president of Princess Cruises, in the press release.
Japan initiated the cruise ban in March 2020 after a fatal coronavirus outbreak took place in February on the Diamond Princess, a Princess cruise ship. The spread forced about 3,700 people on board into a two-week quarantine.
Since Japan reopened to international cruises, other vacation ships are gearing up to return to the country. In a Wednesday press release, Holland America Line, also a subsidiary of Carnival, announced some of its own itineraries in Japan for early 2023.
Japan joins a growing pool of countries warming back up to cruise tourism after hitting pause for Covid. Reuters reported that New Zealand lifted its cruise ban in late July, while Australia lifted its bar in April and Canada even earlier in November of 2021.
Cruises are the next frontier in Japan’s easing of pandemic-era tourism restrictions, which devastated multiple sectors of its billion-dollar tourism industry. In June, the country opened its borders back up to international tourists.
The myriad of global tourism restrictions sunk the cruise industry. The biggest brands were forced to cut operations, often after the coronavirus had fatally spread on board. Carnival, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line, the leaders in the market, saw their shares plummet over 80% in 2020.
Cruise companies have steadily been building back since the initial shutdown, but the rebound of the industry has been stunted by macroeconomic headwinds like rate hikes and a potential recession. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian, all of which accrued huge debt loads during the pandemic, saw their stocks fall in September as the Federal Reserve continued to increase interest rates.