Jason T. Liberty
President and Chief Executive Officer at Royal Caribbean Cruises
Thank you, Michael, and good morning everyone. I'm pleased to be with all of you today in my new role here at Royal Caribbean Group. I'm very fortunate and humbled to take the helm of this incredible organization, which includes our industry-leading brands and the most innovative fleet in the world that is enabled by our incredible people and culture.
I'm very much looking forward to building on the company's remarkable legacy and track record in the years ahead. I also want to congratulate and welcome Naftali as our new CFO. Many of you already know Naf, but for those who don't, I'm confident you'll enjoy working with him.
Our mission at Royal Caribbean has been and continues to be focused simply and completely on delivering every day the very best vacation experience and doing so in a responsible way. It is awe-inspiring to see our team deliver on our mission each and every day. While 2021 was another challenging year for our company and the industry, it also marked our healthy return to sailing.
In just a few short months and thanks to the incredible preparedness of our operating team and crew throughout the last year and a half we have brought back more than 85% of our capacity into service and delivered extraordinary vacations in memories to approximately 1.3 million guests.
I want to thank the hardworking people of the Royal Caribbean Group, both our crew and our shoreside employees for their incredible efforts to bring back our fleet in such a short window and such a successful way. I am so proud and grateful for their efforts. I also want to thank our guests, travel partners, destination partners, suppliers, investors and financial partners for their steadfast support. As we navigate through this black swan event, we have focused intently on a successful healthy return to service, as you would expect.
At the same time, we have been charting our course to get back to pre-COVID performance levels and beyond soonest. The combination of very strong, secular and demographic trends, our leading brands, the most innovative and a growing fleet, our global sourcing footprint, a leading technology platform, and the reshaping of our cost structure positions us exceptionally well to accelerate.
Let me focus a moment on our healthy return to service. Since we resumed operations, our goal has been to making cruising one of the safest vacations anywhere in the world while providing an exceptional guest experience. We continue to demonstrate that in a very tangible way. As you heard me say, we have carried approximately 1.3 million guests since the restart with about 2,500 guests testing positive for COVID-19, a positivity rate of 0.19%. This positivity rate is still a small fraction of what it is in society at large and nearly all cases on board were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms.
Our rigorous health and safety protocols with a 100% vaccination rate among our crew and close to a 100% vaccination rate among our guests provide a safe environment where we can fulfill our mission of delivering amazing vacations. And our guests are responding by providing record Net Promoter Scores for us exceeding their expectations. A few weeks ago the prescriptive CDC conditional sale order expired, demonstrating the agencies' confidence in the overall effectiveness of the health and safety protocols of the cruise industry.
Our own protocols continue to go above and beyond anything the framework provided and what consumers will find in any hospitality setting. We continue to engage with the CDC and other public health agencies as we look to adjust our COVID-19 risk mitigation measures in response to the changing nature of the virus. Our healthy return to service plans anticipated twist and turns on our recovery path. We remain nimble in our approach adjusting to changes in the operating environment with a constant focus on our long-term strategy and success.
As everyone is aware, the Omicron variant has impacted most parts of society as well as our operations. Since mid-December we experienced an increase in the number of people testing positive for COVID on-board our ships. The good news is, is that in the last several weeks cases on-board or ships have been declining rapidly. And we now have returned to exceptionally low pre-Omicron levels. In fact, over the last seven days we have averaged only a handful of positive guest cases per cruise. With the decline in cases, operational challenges are also abating. So while the variant is not done, it appears that the worst is behind us.
The timing of Omicron was particularly painful as a typical way booking period begins in early January. So, we do expect it will weigh on our performance in Q1 and to a lesser extent in early Q2. With the peak in Omicron now seemingly behind us, we have seen meaningful and sequential improvement in the booking activity week-over-week since the beginning of the year. In fact, in the last week of January, bookings returned to pre-Omicron levels and we expect demand recovery to accelerate as the variant subsides.
With that in mind, we have extended our sales and marketing activities for a delayed and extended WAVE. While Omicron created some short-term challenges, and will likely delay our return to profitability by a few months our recovery trajectory remains intact. We remain confident that we will have a strong spring and summer season with great demand for cruising both domestically and internationally. The robust secular trends of experience sits over things that has propelled our business in the past few years is now recovering towards pre-COVID levels.
We have also seen a change in the mindset of consumers coming out of the pandemic with the desire to travel and re-engage with the world being stronger than ever. In fact, the U.S. Travel Organization Research confirms that leisure travel will continue to increase at higher levels than business travel. All of this coupled with consumer resilience and easing travel restrictions provides tailwinds for our recovery. After a storied 2020 and 2021, we are eager to move forward in this New Year. As people are keen on taking a vacation, we are ready to make their vacation dreams come true in a healthy and safe environment.
We expect 2022 will be a strong transitional year as we bring the rest of our fleet into operations and approach historical occupancy levels. We expect a net loss for the first half of 2022 to the impact of Omicron and a return to profitability in the second half of the year. During 2022 we look forward to welcoming two additional new ships, Wonder of the Seas for Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Beyond for Celebrity Cruises. These exciting new ships will deliver amazing vacations to our guests and join six other new vessels that have entered our fleet since 2020.
This is a key pillar to support our recovery. New hardware is an important driver of quality demand, extraordinary customer experience and exceptional financial performance. And just as important, it improves our sustainability as these are innovative ships that are much more energy-efficient. We remain focused on continuing to innovate our product and maintain our strong competitive advantage setting the foundation for a strong recovery and long-term profitable growth. During the pandemic, we have had a relentless focus on reshaping our cost structure and rigorous capital allocation framework.
We expect that the combination of new ships, growing yields, and higher profitability will propel our financial performance and support our focus to return to pre-COVID financial metrics and beyond soonest. Corporate stewardship remains another key priority as we continue to progress across environmental, social, and governance-focused areas. Climate change and reducing our emissions have been central to our environmental stewardship activities for decades.
Last quarter, we announced our comprehensive decarbonization strategy and goals. We realize that the transition to net zero will not be easy and to achieve our ambitions, we will rely on our culture of innovation, as well as strong partnerships with governments, suppliers, and shipyards to develop alternative and accessible fuels and technologies.
Additionally, in the past few months, we were named an Employer of Choice by Forbes and Glassdoor and last week we earned a 100% score on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Corporate Equality Index, which rates corporate policies and practices that relate to LGBTQ plus workplace equality. These are recognitions we're proud of and they reflect our commitment to our employees.
All of this tells you that our business model is incredibly strong and we have a track record of growing revenue, earnings, and cash flow. Our formula for success is unchanged. Recover and grow yields, enhance our margins, profitability and ROIC. To that we added returning our balance sheet to pre-COVID levels.
We have the best brands in each of our segments, the most innovative fleet in the industry, exclusive destination experiences like Perfect Day at CocoCay, a nimble and effective global sourcing footprint, a leading technology platform and most of all, the very best team both at sea and on land. With that winning formula, I'm confident about the recovery and I'm very excited about the future of Royal Caribbean Group.
And with that, I will turn it off to Naftali. Naf?