Carnival Cruise Line plans to resume sailing on Aug. 1, becoming the first major cruise operator in the Americas to outline a return to operations after coronavirus outbreaks on several ships shuttered the industry.
The flagship brand of Carnival Corp. said it will renew some cruises initially from Galveston, Texas, Miami and Port Canaveral, Florida. Cruises from other home ports in North America and Australia are canceled through Aug. 31, and other pauses will last even longer.
Several states are starting to reopen their economies, including Florida, where Carnival is based. Still, many questions linger about the safety of cruising in the time of the coronavirus, given the confined nature of the vessels. When the industry shut down in mid-March, outbreaks at sea wreaked havoc by trapping passengers, some of whom died, and placing demands on local health-care systems at a critical time in the pandemic.
“We will use this additional time to continue to engage experts, government officials and stakeholders on additional protocols and procedures to protect the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we serve,” the company said.
The industry stoppage in March came only after ports around the world started turning ships away for fear of the virus. Several ships lingered at sea for weeks as they sought a place to berth.
Although most cruise companies, including Carnival, have portrayed the pause in operations as voluntary, President Donald Trump tweeted that he personally intervened.
The coronavirus has swept the cruise industry broadly, but Carnival Corp. — the industry leader in market share — had many of the earliest and most dramatic viral episodes at sea. The Diamond Princess, part of Carnival’s Princess Cruises brand, at one time had the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside of mainland China as it floated off Yokohama, Japan.
Compared with some other brands in the portfolio, Carnival Cruise Line has been relatively unscathed by the pandemic. Along with Princess, Holland America Line has been at the center of international crises tracked round-the-clock by the news media.
A “no-sail” order from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is due to expire in mid-July after a 100-day extension of the agency’s original edict.
Carnival shares rose as much as 3.4% to $14.40 after the announcement, then weakened to near unchanged. The stock was down 73% this year through Friday’s close.