Carnival Cruise Line has extended its current suspension for another month, this time through January 31, 2021 for cruises sailing from all U.S. ports.
In addition, cruises for most ports, including Baltimore, Charleston, Jacksonville, Long Beach, New Orleans, and San Diego have been cancelled through February 28.
Sailings aboard the Carnival Legend from Tampa are cancelled through March 26.
According to the company, “Carnival is in the process of building a gradual, phased in approach to resume guest operations, which will focus initially on Miami and Port Canaveral, to be followed by Galveston. Consistent with CDC protocols, Carnival Horizon arrives in Miami this week, and Carnival Breeze will be the next ship back to the U.S.”
A search of Carnival’s website confirms that the earliest cruises available start in February with only Miami, Port Canaveral, and Galveston available. Earlier dates or different ports show no trips for booking.
Carnival says it has 16 ships following the process to resume sailing from the United States in 2021. That’s roughly two-thirds of its entire fleet.
Return Date Still in Limbo
Just a few weeks ago, Carnival — along with the industry as a whole — cancelled cruises through the end of 2020, following the announcement of the new CDC pathway to return to sailing. As we’ve told readers, while the industry decided to cancel cruises through 2020, our reading of the CDC’s framework suggested more extensions were on the way.
In particular, the CDC rules require long lead times between several steps in the path to return to sailing. For instance, before a ship performs a simulated voyage, which is required by the CDC, it must give 30 days notice to the agency. And a cruise line must apply for a “Conditional Sailing Certificate” at least 60 days before its anticipated return date.
This lead time means that while cruise lines have a path to return, navigating the framework should take several months at least.
When it comes to Carnival in particular, there are reasons to think their return could be further delayed compared to other lines.
As we discussed in detail here, the CDC requires a “No Sail Order” response plan to be in place as one of the first steps in the framework. Other lines — including Royal Caribbean and Norwegian — have these already on file. According to the CDC, the process to complete these plans took months of back and forth and a number of revisions.
Carnival decided to pull its ships from the U.S. markets during the suspension, so its plan wasn’t reviewed and approved by the CDC. As of the latest update of cruise lines with approved plans in place, Carnival still doesn’t appear on the list.
That’s not to say there will be a definite delay, as it’s likely Carnival is doing everything it can to return. At this point, however, it seems to be a step behind some other cruise lines.
It’s still unclear if further extensions will be needed before cruises get back to sailing. The CDC framework doesn’t provide an actual timeline to return to sailing, it just offers a pathway that cruise lines must meet. It could be that some lines meet the requirements quickly while others need more time to return safely.
For now, we know the earliest that Carnival will return will be February 2021.