While 2021 has held the promise of better days ahead, so far the year is picking up largely where 2020 has left off. For the cruise industry, that means more cancellations.
This morning Carnival announced it is extending its pause in sailing from the United States for another month. Previously all cruises from the U.S. were suspended through March. That’s now been extended through April 2021, with cruises set to return in May.
As we explained earlier this week, this cancellation isn’t a surprise. Its major rivals — Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line — already announced suspensions through April. In previous extensions the cruise lines all announced similar anticipated return dates.
Furthermore, given the lead times required by the CDC in its framework to return to sailing, it’s at least an estimated 90 days that cruise lines face between when they apply for a simulated voyage and when they actually set sail with paying passengers. That timeline would already put a return at least in the later days of April, but no simulated voyages have been announced yet.
Mardi Gras Debut Impacted
While at this point more suspensions are seemingly commonplace, this announcement does have a major impact in one area — Carnival Mardi Gras.
Carnival’s newest ship was set to debut in 2020, but its arrival was delayed due to the pandemic. Most recently it was slated to begin sailing with an inaugural cruise from Port Canaveral in April. That’s now been pushed back.
The new sail date for Mardi Gras is May 29, 2021. The ship has plans to set sail on a week-long trip from Port Canaveral, with stops in Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Mahogany Bay (Roatan).
As explained in our 10 Bold Predictions for Cruising in 2021, this ship is likely to be one of the brightest spots in cruising for this year, whenever it does finally sail. The ship is also a new direction for what’s arguably the favorite cruise line in America. It looks completely different from any other ship in Carnival’s fleet and includes new restaurants, activities, and more — including the only rollercoaster on a cruise ship.
Having another delay in the ship’s debut is definitely a sour note. However, there is some reason to be optimistic about the future for Carnival and cruising in general.
As a vaccine rollout continues, there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel and some hope that we can soon return to something more normal than what we’ve seen for the past year. That includes a return to cruising — albeit with a number of differences to keep passengers healthy.
At this point all three of the major cruise companies have pushed their return dates until at least May. We are hopeful that by that point a vaccine will be widely available, sharply reducing the risk of spread on a ship, and meaning cruises can get back to sailing.