Here’s some good news for fans of Lindblad Expeditions: the cruise line has gotten a $6.6 million loan from Citibank. The amount is considered a U.S. Small Business Administration Loan and will mostly be used to help with paying employees during this time when most cruise lines are generating little to no revenue. Lindblad’s cruises have been cancelled for a bit now, and they recently announced that they will remain out of operations until at least the end of May – as is the case with plenty of other lines out there. With no idea about when they will be able to start making money again, a loan like this is incredibly important and will help a great deal with actually being able to assure that their employees stay on payroll.
This small business loan is something that has an interesting place in the cruise industry. Many travel companies have not needed to seek out similar loans due to being included in the U.S. government’s coronavirus stimulus package, which left some sizable sums to help out airlines, which are suffering greatly under the stress of the pandemic. Cruise lines, however, were distinctly left out of the bill, leaving them with no way to make money and no way to pay their employees.
Lindblad’s solution certainly works well for them, but a bank loan like this will not necessarily be a realistic solution for all cruise lines. The expedition cruise line certainly has a pretty sizable fleet, but the size of their ships is nothing compared to the bigger companies like Royal Caribbean or Norwegian. This means that the amount of money Lindblad needs to spend to keep these ships maintained during this downtime is much less. For Royal, a small loan would really only be a drop in the bucket to help them weather the effects of the virus. Indeed, it may not even completely solve the problem for Lindblad, as it is unclear when operations will really be able to start up again.
Small cruise lines like Lindblad are in an interesting economic position during this pandemic. While they do not have the same financial infrastructure built up as some of the major companies, they will also have to dump less money into ship maintenance and other highly-consuming activities. So, in a sense, you win some and you lose some. While this loan may not be quite enough to ensure financial security for the duration of the pandemic, it will definitely help, and it will perhaps provide a blueprint for economic initiatives for other small cruise lines out there.