Carnival's Grand Princess cruise ship docked at Oakland, California, US, March 10 2020. Picture: BLOOMBERG/DAVID PAUL MORRIS
Carnival's Grand Princess cruise ship docked at Oakland, California, US, March 10 2020. Picture: BLOOMBERG/DAVID PAUL MORRIS

New York — Carnival Cruise Line plans to resume sailing on August 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 company’s flagship Carnival brand said Monday it will restart initially from Galveston, Texas, and Miami and Port Canaveral, Florida. Departures from other home ports in North America and Australia are cancelled until August 31, and other pauses will last even longer.

With several states starting to reopen their economies, the company is offering discounts of as little as $28 a day to get customers back. Still, many questions linger about the safety of cruising. When the industry shut down in mid-March, coronavirus 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 cruise industry has historically used discounts to attract customers, but the extent of the sale shows the crisis of confidence Carnival is trying to overcome.

Turned away

The industry stoppage in March came only after ports around  the world started turning ships away in fear of the virus. Several vessels lingered at sea for weeks as they sought a place to dock.

The coronavirus swept across the cruise industry, but Carnival — the largest operator — 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 mainland China as it floated off Yokohama, Japan.

Along with Princess, Holland America Line has been at the centre of international crises tracked round-the-clock by the news media.

A “no-sail” order from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is due to expire on July 24 after a 100-day extension of the agency’s original edict.

Investors applauded the plan to restart. Carnival shares rose as much as 4.7% to $14.58 after the announcement. The stock was down 73% in 2020 up to last week.

Bloomberg