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Lack of Crew Forces Delay in Return to Service for Diamond Princess

Diamond Princess cruises canceled due to crew shortage
Diamond Princess will return to service four months behind schedule due to crew shortages (file photo)

Published Aug 9, 2022 4:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

There continues to be a lot of attention on the struggles in the airline sector as the major carriers confront crew shortages causing them to cancel flights. The cruise industry has also been quietly adjusting operations in part due to a lack of crew and the challenges of restaffing their ships after the nearly two-year pause in operations.

Princess Cruises announced yesterday that it is canceling 11 upcoming cruises between September and November aboard its cruise ship the Diamond Princess due to the challenges of restaffing the company’s ships. The 115,875 gross ton cruise ship was scheduled to become one of the last in the Princess fleet to return to service starting sailing on September 1 from Los Angeles. With the Sapphire Princess also due to restart cruises in September, Princess expected to have its entire fleet of 15 cruise ships in service for the first time since March 2020.

“Over the past year we have operated hundreds of cruises thanks to the tens of thousands of our Princess team members that have rejoined our fleet to deliver exceptional Princess vacations. However, like others in the global travel industry, we have experienced some labor challenges,” Princess wrote in a letter to travelers booked for the upcoming cruises. 

Princess cites rising occupancy aboard its cruise ships as one of the challenges that it needs to overcome. By canceling voyages through November 13, Princess said, “This will provide
us with the additional time needed to overcome our labor challenges.”

The Diamond Princess when fully operational carries a crew of approximately 1,100 people. The cruise ship has accommodations for 2,670 passengers based on cabin double occupancy. The cruise ship had recently repositioned from Singapore to Los Angeles in preparation for its return to service. In 2020, the Diamond Princess became the subject of worldwide attention when the ship was quarantined by the Japanese during one of the first outbreaks of COVID-19 aboard a cruise.

Passengers booked on the cruises that were scheduled to sail from San Diego to Mexico are being offered alternative cruises. The company is offering a $100 onboard credit for passengers that transfer to a similar cruise aboard the Discovery Princess sailing from Los Angeles to Mexico.

It is not the first time the cruise lines have been forced to delay the return of a ship or cancel cruises due to staffing issues. Princess’s sister brand P&O Cruises also owned by Carnival Corporation idled its cruise ship the Arcadia between April and July 2022 due to staffing shortages. The company said it would be transferring crew from the Arcadia to fill openings aboard its other cruise ships also operating in the UK market.

Faced with similar issues to attract and train new crewmembers. other cruise lines have taken different approaches. Carnival Cruise Line announced earlier this year that it would be suspending some amenities aboard its cruise ships including closing its Italian specialty restaurant, reducing options on menus, and canceling activities such as a grand tea and the chocolate buffet.

In addition to the challenges of recruiting replacement crew, Carnival for example cited more complex travel routines. They said there was a backlog in paperwork with visas taking longer to obtain. Carnival Cruise Line said it was working with the U.S. State Department to expedite visa processing to alleviate its staffing challenges.