(4:35 p.m. EST) -- Despite the spread of the omicron variant of COVID-19, cruise bookings remain strong, particularly into the latter half of the year, Royal Caribbean's new top boss said Wednesday.
In an interview with Royal Caribbean's Vicki Freed, newly-minted president and CEO Jason Liberty told listeners he sees reason for cruisers to be optimistic about the course ahead as the ongoing global health pandemic continues to evolve.
"There is tremendous momentum," said Liberty, on the subject of future cruise bookings. "When we're talking to our guests, there's really strong demand for cruise.
"When we look at Q2 and beyond, it (bookings) are really in line with what we expected," Liberty said. "We're marketing, we're investing, and I think it's very important to note that even through this entire journey, we have not and will not compromise our guest experience.
"We'll continue to invest in it, and we think that's key to ensuring we have a very long-term viable business."
For Liberty, one of the key challenges ahead is not omicron itself, but in advocating for the industry, its safety and health protocols, and the quality of vacation a cruise represents.
"I think people are just looking for consistency," Liberty continued. "We are in a state where the variant is at a higher level (of transmissibility), and I think we all appreciate that. But when you look at all the indicators, especially in the long term, there's no doubt that people want to travel."
"There is no better platform than cruise to be able to do that on."
Liberty also reassured travel partners he would continue to offer regular updates on the state of the industry, as his predecessor and industry veteran Richard Fain did prior to stepping down at the start of the new year.
"It is my intent to continue to communicate with the trade in terms of what's going on," Liberty told travel advisors. "We're actually evaluating what's the best channel for that, whether that's going to be through videos."
"I'm still trying to get the right perm for my hair to get to that kind of hair style that Richard evolved to," joked Liberty, referring to Fain's progressively curly hair as shown in videos throughout the pandemic and associated cruise shutdown.
Liberty -- who quipped he is only eight days into his new role as Royal Caribbean Group's president and CEO -- says the line's continued return to service is a major priority for him.
"We have about 80 percent of our fleet up and running," said Liberty. "We have great leadership here, but we need to make sure as we come out of this, that we're accelerating.
"We have the best brands, we have the best ships, and the best people, and that positions us very well."