For the first time in roughly a year, Carnival ships returned to Galveston, Texas, docking at the Port of Galveston on Sunday. Along with them came the excitement of a restart and a rally to support the return of cruising from the island.
Carnival Breeze and Carnival Vista were met by a reported crowd of 200 people to see the ships dock at the port. It’s the first time the ships have returned to the homeport since early 2020 after cruising was suspended.
With banners on the ships saying “Howdy Texas!” and “We Miss Y’all!” the two ships looked almost as if they never left. At least from the outside, they also looked as if they were ready to take on passengers. However, that still has to wait.
As of now there is still no certain date as to when cruise ships will return to sailing from the United States with passengers. The good news is that the situation looks more likely than ever that cruises will be back sailing sometime summer.
So while the Breeze and Vista are scheduled to leave Galveston after May 7, it could be that they return again soon.
Galveston Rally to Return to Cruising
To help the call for their return, there was a rally held overlooking the port on Monday.
Speakers included Commissioners Louis Sola and Carl Bentzel of the Federal Maritime Commission, as well as Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy, and the mayor of Galveston, Craig Brown.
The theme of the rally was not just to welcome back the ships to Galveston and call on the CDC to allow sailing to return. The biggest focus was on the impact that cruise ships have on ports and their economies.
“With hundreds of thousands of jobs in the cruise industry nationwide, the resumption of cruising is so important,” said Rodger Rees, CEO of Port of Galveston, at the rally. “It’s critical to putting our partners, Carnival, and the Port of Galveston back to work.
There was also some good news emphasized for the port by Christine Duffy. She said that Galveston will help lead the restart of cruising.
“I just do really want to convey to you how confident we have been from the start of this that our [Carnival] restart would come here and to the capital of cruising in Florida,” said Duffy. “We have been so impressed with what the port has done to prepare with the consistent message and support never wavering.”
“This is a bipartisan issue, and it is about jobs. Putting the cruise lines aside and what we have been dealing with, from this crisis comes a real opportunity.”
Duffy also said that since the pandemic started, Carnival has cancelled over 2,600 cruises, impacting 4 million people.
Hopeful Signs to Sail Again
The rally represents the latest push by the cruise industry to push the government for a resumption of sailing.
Carnival alone carries about 750,000 guests annually from Galveston, while Royal Caribbean contributes hundreds of thousands more. But it’s not just the cruise lines that are losing business.
Port cities around the country, including Galveston, rely on the tourism dollars that cruising brings. This includes everything from hotels to restaurants and even parking lots and transportation companies.
In response, while the cruise industry calls for a restart, so too do political and business leaders eager to get their cities and states back to normal. This includes everyone from mayors to governors to representatives and senators, along with impacted business owners.
In recent days the CDC appears to be softening its stance in response to the pressure, bringing excitement that a return could come in the months ahead.
“The good news is CDC has begun to provide the industry with more specific guidance that does give us a path where we could resume sailing by July,” said Duffy.
For instance, new modifications to the Conditional Sail Order now allow cruise lines to skip simulated cruises as long as the vast majority of passengers and crew are vaccinated. As well, the 60-day lead time to apply to start back sailing has been scrapped, with the CDC saying it will give a response within five days.
In other words, cruising isn’t back yet, but seeing Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze docked in Galveston does give a taste of what we could see this summer.