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First Steps Taken for Return to Cruising

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By Allan E. Jordan 05-04-2020 07:25:45

Carnival Cruise Line today became the first of the major cruise lines to release details for a return to service. The tentative steps set August 1, 2020 for the first cruises, identifying specific ships and homeports for the beginning of a phased resumption of service while also extending the cancellations for other portions of the service until August 31.

Carnival Cruise Line resumption plan begins with eight cruise ships homeported in Miami, Port Canaveral, and Galveston. The cruises range between four and eight-nights scheduled to sail to the Bahamas, Caribbean, and Mexico. Other cruises, including those to Alaska and Hawaii and departing from other ports including San Francisco, New York, and Australia, however, remain suspended until the end of August or canceled for 2020.

Carnival later issued a further clarification of its announcement noting, “Any resumption of cruise operations – whenever that may be – is fully dependent on our continued efforts in cooperation with federal, state, local and international government officials. In our continued support of public health efforts, any return to service will also include whatever enhanced operational protocols and social gathering guidelines that are in place at the time of the resumption of cruise operations.”

The details of today’s announcement might come as a surprise to some industry observers who had expected the first cruises might be limited only to shorter durations and smaller ships. Carnival included a variety of its newest and larger ships as well as some of the smaller cruise ships, but no three-night cruises were included in the initial schedule. Sailing from Miami will be the Carnival Horizon, Carnival Magic, and Carnival Sensation; from Port Canaveral the Carnival Breeze and Carnival Elation; and from Galveston the Carnival Dream, Carnival Freedom, and Carnival Vista.  

A spokesperson for Carnival told The Maritime Executive that during the extended pause they “will be continuing our discussions with officials in the destinations we serve so that they understand our enhanced procedures, they have the proper infrastructure to support our return to the market, and they are ready for our return.” 

As part of its previous No Sail Order, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had ordered the cruise lines to submit a plan to prevent, mitigate, and respond to the spread of COVID-19 that addressed monitoring and medical screenings for passengers and crew, training crew on COVID-19 prevention, and managing and responding to an outbreak on board.

The details of future protocols and specific changes to health restrictions and on board operations were not detailed in today’s announcement. Carnival’s website currently cites an extensive “Ship Cleaning Standards” protocol with sanitation/disinfection/cleaning measures. This includes frequent sanitizing, the staff serving guests or monitoring food stations, the availability of hand-washing sinks and/or hand sanitizing applications, and operational changes including increasing the temperature in washers and dryers for enhanced disinfection and a deep cleaning and disinfection process at night in highly-trafficked public areas.

It is unclear, when or how, Carnival will return staff to the eight ships selected to resume operations or any changes that would be made to the ships before their first cruises. Last week, Carnival had announced that 18 of its cruise ships would meet in the Bahamas as the next step in its effort to complete reparations for its crew members. More than 10,000 crew were expected to be combined onto nine ships that will be sailing to Asia, Africa, Europe, India, and Latin America. 

Carnival has completed the reparation of 10,000 crew members by air with an additional 6,000 either on chartered flights or on one ship that sailed from California to Asia and two ships that arrived from Australia. It was expected that about 3,000 crew members will remain across the fleet of 27 cruise ships to maintain the ships’ operations. 

Today’s announcement only pertained to Carnival Cruise Line. None of the other major cruise companies, including the other brands owned by Carnival Corporation, responded with similar details for their return to service. In recent days, several cruise lines had extended their suspensions while others continue to target mid-June for a resumption of service. The CDC’s no sail order will expire in late July unless it is modified or rescinded.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.