Carnival Corporation Cancels North American Cruises Until 2021

Following the CDC’s new “Framework for Conditional Sailing,” Carnival Corporation has announced it will pause all of its North American cruise lines through the remainder of 2020.

Previously the company’s Carnival brand anticipated a return to sailing from Florida in December. Now, it has suspended all North American cruises through the rest of the year.

“We continue to work with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and global government and public health authorities, as well as top medical and science experts around the globe, on a comprehensive plan for the eventual restart of cruising in North America,” said Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald. “Whenever we restart our cruise operations in the U.S., we certainly look forward to welcoming our guests on board.”

The extension involves all of the company’s lines operating in North America, most notably its namesake Carnival brand. The cruise line had plans to return to sailing from Miami and Port Canaveral next month, starting its return with a handful of ships.

This suspension also impacts Cunard North America, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn.

New CDC Requirements Take Time to Implement

Given the recent announcement of the CDC’s path to return to sailing, the extension is not a surprise. Other companies, including Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., announced similar pauses earlier today.

The CDC’s plan to return to sailing involves a number of major steps, starting with crew safety protocols, then simulated voyages, a certification application process, and finally a return to cruising with paying passengers. In addition, protocols for testing passengers and crew (which is now required before embarkation and debarkation) must be put in place.

While the requirements are numerous to return to sailing, the timeline also raises some questions. Specifically, the CDC requires large lead times for many steps. For example, the CDC requires at least 30 days notice before a cruise line plans to operate a simulated voyage. After that, the agency requires cruise lines apply for a “Conditional Sailing Certificate” at least 60 days before its first anticipated cruise.

Notably, January 1, 2021 is exactly 60 days from now. It seems possible that with all the other steps still required, Carnival — along with other cruise lines — could have to extend their return until well beyond the start of January.

Carnival Corporation says “the date for restarting cruise operations will be communicated by each respective brand and available on their websites.”

Optimism About a Return Before the End of the Year Fades

While cruising does finally have a clear path to return, the restart seems to come later than many cruise executives had hoped.

In October, Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald stated his optimism about a return to sailing from the United States before the end of the year. On a scale of 1 to 5, he gave his confidence level at a “4.9” that the company would cruise again before 2021.

That optimism may have been premature, however, with a clear path on how to return to sailing now laid out by government officials, there does finally seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel.

Carnival has already restarted with cruise lines in Europe, although its AIDA brand paused sailings in light of spiking virus cases in the continent. 

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