Carnival Cruise Line plans to resume cruises on Aug. 1, the company announced Monday.
Eight of its 27 ships will begin cruising out of ports in Florida and Texas in August, the company said, while all other cruises will remain canceled through at least Aug. 31. The company had previously said it would cancel all cruises through June 26.
The first ships to return to cruising will be the Carnival Horizon, Carnival Magic and Carnival Sensation from Miami, the Carnival Breeze and Carnival Elation from Port Canaveral east of Orlando, and the Carnival Dream, Carnival Freedom and Carnival Vista from Galveston, Texas. All Alaska cruises on the Carnival Spirit from Seattle will be canceled, as well as the Carnival Spirit Vancouver-Honolulu cruise on Sept. 25 and the Honolulu-Brisbane transpacific cruise on Oct. 6.
The cruise industry initially canceled new cruises on March 13 after repeated COVID-19 outbreaks on its ships, followed by a no-sail order from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On April 9, citing ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks among crew, the CDC extended its no-sail order for the industry, banning cruises through at least July 24, or until the COVID-19 pandemic is declared over. The order also requires companies to tell the CDC how they sanitize ships, report the number of COVID-19 cases daily, test for COVID-19, staff ships with enough doctors and equipment, privately transport critically ill people and repatriate nonessential workers.
Spokesperson for Carnival Cruise Line Vance Gulliksen said the company is working on a set of protocols to protect passengers and crew. “We are using this extended pause to continue to build a strong set of protocols for guest, crew and community health and safety,” he said via email.
In April, Genting Cruise Line announced it is preparing for a host of post-pandemic changes when cruises resume. Those include requiring a doctor’s note from passengers over 70, infrared fever detectors on gangways, face masks for all passenger-facing crew members and common-area disinfecting as frequently as every two hours.
Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Cruise Line’s parent company, Carnival Corporation, said on a press call on April 15 that it was too early to determine what protocols were needed to stop disease outbreaks on the company’s ships.
“We absolutely don’t know,” he said. “We’re going to have to let society run its course in determining how it’s going to deal with a world going forward that has COVID in it for some time until a vaccine is developed. We are going to be compliant. We are going to have medical experts decide what the course of action is.”
A Miami Herald investigation has found that at least 2,787 cruise passengers and crew members have been infected and at least 74 have died from the disease. COVID-19 cases are linked to at least 57 cruise ships, more than one-fifth of the ocean cruise fleet.
The decision to begin cruising again comes as the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is investigating Carnival Corporation’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Committee chairman Peter DeFazio, D-Oregon, called the company’s decision to wait until August at the earliest to resume cruises “welcome news.”
“The Committee recently requested internal records from Carnival that will help the Committee review past actions taken by Carnival to confront coronavirus, and to assess and better understand what future health and safety measures Carnival and other cruise operators need to take to protect passengers and crew,” he said. “The Committee intends to evaluate these past actions with a close eye on future actions Carnival and the cruise industry will be taking to confront the coronavirus pandemic.”
The committee has asked the company to start handing over internal documents related to the pandemic on May 15.
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Taylor Dolven is a business journalist who has covered the tourism industry at the Miami Herald since 2018. Her reporting has uncovered environmental violations of cruise companies, the impact of vacation rentals on affordable housing supply, safety concerns among pilots at MIA’s largest cargo airline and the hotel industry’s efforts to delay a law meant to protect workers from sexual harassment.