Carnival Plans For Half its Fleet Sailing By End of October

Carnival Cruise Line announced that it will add seven additional ships to its return in the coming months, with plans for three setting sail again in September and four more in October. In total, that will bring the number of Carnival ships sailing to 15 — more than half of its fleet — as the cruise line looks to ramp up operations.

Carnival Cruise Line funnel

While the cruise line has already returned with sailings from Texas and Florida, several new ports, including New Orleans, Baltimore, and Mobile, will see their first Carnival ships in roughly a year-and-a-half.

The announced ships and ports include:

  • Carnival Glory from New Orleans starting September 5, 2021
  • Carnival Pride from Baltimore starting September 12, 2021
  • Carnival Dream from Galveston starting September 19, 2021
  • Carnival Conquest from Miami starting October 8, 2021
  • Carnival Freedom from Miami starting October 9, 2021
  • Carnival Elation from Port Canaveral starting October 11, 2021
  • Carnival Sensation from Mobile starting October 21, 2021

This in addition to already announced departures on Mardi Gras, Panorama, Horizon, Vista, and more. Also, Carnival Miracle will move from Seattle to Long Beach in September.

“We are very excited about our restart and greatly appreciate the support of our guests, travel agents and port and destination partners,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, in a press release. “By the end of July, we will have five ships in our restart plan, including the introduction of service on Mardi Gras, and we are seeing a great combination of strong demand and strong guest satisfaction scores tied to the positive guest experience on board.”

Vaccination Requirement Planned for Sailings

Notably, despite being a family-oriented cruise line, Carnival plans to continue sailing with fully-vaccinated cruises (defined as 95%+ passengers vaccinated). This allows the cruise line to bypass simulated test cruises and also gives more freedom for guests on the ship surrounding mask-wearing and distancing. In our experience, sailing on a fully-vaccinated cruise was almost completely the same as sailing before the pause.

A small number of exempted passengers — including kids — are allowed, but those guests must apply to be able to sail. A spot is not guaranteed. Even if an exemption is granted, anyone without the shot must pay a $150 fee per person for testing and reporting requirements.

As well, passengers without the shot must have proof of travel insurance if sailing from Texas or Florida. They also face other restrictions during the cruise, including only being able to explore ports on “bubble” tours that are highly controlled (You can read our personal experience on one of these tours here.)

“The decision to sail with vaccinated voyages was a difficult one to make, and we recognize this is disappointing to some of our guests especially the many families with children under the age of 12 who we love to sail, and who love to sail with us,” said Duffy. “It’s important to remember that this is a temporary measure given the current circumstances.”

COVID Questions Still Remain for Cruises

So far Carnival has returned to sailing for the first time with trips aboard Carnival Vista from Galveston, Carnival Horizon from Miami, and Carnival Breeze from Galveston. Later this month is the much-anticipated first sailing for Mardi Gras, a trip that’s been delayed repeatedly due to the pandemic.

As they slowly return, cruise lines seem to have limited the number of cases on ships thanks to vaccines and protocols. But cases are still being found — even on ships without passengers — due partly to the efforts to root them out quickly in order to limit any spread.

Of the 16 Carnival ships being tracked by the CDC, four have either “yellow” or “orange” status, indicating possible cases were found in the past week. (“Yellow” cases could also be due to daily reports not being sent to the CDC on time.)

What’s yet to be seen is how growth in cases in the United States will have an impact on cruising. Sailings returned to the U.S. right as a lull in cases reached its bottom. Now variants of the virus are causing another surge.

For its part, Carnival sounds optimistic about bringing its fleet back. In addition to adding more ships in September and October, the cruise line anticipates having all its ships back sailing by 2022.

“Our plan envisions successfully bringing back our entire fleet by the end of the year, returning to full service – most especially for the millions of families who sail with us – and building back our business for the benefit of our guests, employees and the tens of thousands of jobs and local businesses that depend on our company,” Duffy said.

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