Carnival Cruise Line has removed all scheduled July sailings from its website except for a handful slated to depart from Miami and Galveston, Texas.
The change has fueled speculation among cruise-focused travel websites that Carnival has selected three of its ships — the Vista, Horizon and Breeze — to lead its phased-in resumption of operations in July.
The website shows 14 cruises available for booking through the month. Vista and Breeze are scheduled to depart from the Port of Galveston for 12 of the trips while two six-day Western Caribbean voyages are available from PortMiami aboard the Horizon. They are scheduled to depart on July 4 and July 18.
Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen wouldn’t confirm or deny their theories on Wednesday. In an email, Gulliksen said only that the company stopped sales of trips aboard all ships except the Vista, Horizon and Breeze but has not officially canceled them.
Carnival is scheduled to operate out of 16 U.S. ports when business returns to normal. Port Everglades is not among them, although it hosts ships of other cruise lines owned by parent Carnival Corp.
Meanwhile, Gulliksen said the company continues to evaluate revised guidance issued last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that for the first time acknowledged that cruising could resume from U.S. ports this summer.
Cruise lines would still be required to secure certification demonstrating that they comply with CDC health and safety guidelines aimed at preventing onboard spread of COVID-19.
But the newest guidance also allows cruise lines to avoid simulated test cruises that the CDC ordered last fall if they can confirm that at least 95% of passengers and 98% of crew members are fully vaccinated prior to sailing.
Emrys Thakkar, founder of the cruise information website Cruise Hive, said Carnival’s plan seems apparent even if the company won’t admit it.
“Carnival Cruise Line has already made it clear that it will have a phased-in return to service, and having just three Carnival cruise ships available for booking in July does make sense for that,” Thakkar said by email. “I believe these are the ships that will be the first to have at least 98% of fully vaccinated crew on board and could be the first to set sail in the fleet.”
For most of the past year, Carnival and its competitors have allowed customers to book — and pay for — cruises scheduled just a few months into the future, despite an absence of clear guidance from the CDC indicating that any cruising would be allowed on the scheduled dates. Then, as the dates drew closer, the cruise lines would cancel a month of sailings and notify the customers who paid for them that they could get refunds or reschedule their cruise on a later date.
Analysts have noted that the strategy has kept much-needed cash flowing while the companies have been unable to deliver their products.
Carnival’s decision to keep selling voyages on the Horizon, Breeze and Vista but not the others comes as the company pushes to get crew members aboard all three ships vaccinated.
In an email to employees posted on Cruise Hive’s website, Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy urged all Carnival employees to get vaccinated as soon as possible but acknowledged some live in places where vaccinations are rolling out slowly. Carnival will provide opportunities for those employees to be vaccinated, she said, just as it arranged to vaccinate crew members aboard Breeze and Vista, which arrived in Galveston on Sunday.
At PortMiami, Miami-Dade County and contractor Nomi Health have been running vaccine clinics for port employees and others in the cruise industry. Crew members aboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas were vaccinated on Saturday, and about 900 crew members of various ships were expected to get vaccinated this week.
With information from The Florida Sun Sentinel
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