Some cruise lines are planning to resume shipping this summer, but will passengers board?


Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line aim to resume cruise operations this summer, despite the recent COVID-19 outbreaks on dozens of cruise ships and travel restrictions that have yet to be lifted.

But it remains to be seen whether the cruise lines, headquartered in the United States, will get the green light again so soon, and – even if they do – if the passengers will be willing to board.

“It’s so changeable that it’s almost ridiculous,” said Ross Klein, cruise industry expert, professor of sociology at Memorial University of Newfoundland. He calls the plans to resume cruises this summer “ambitious”.

“There is so much that we don’t know yet,” he said.

Due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has released a “No sailing order” March 14 to all cruise ships in US waters. The order is set to expire on July 24 – unless the CDC decides to extend it.

The effects of COVID-19 have devastated the cruise industry and sparked speculation that some cruise lines may not survive. Norwegian faced serious financial problems – until he is saved this week by investors who have delivered a big injection of money.

Norwegian told CBC News on Wednesday that it plans to resume cruise operations from July 1. When asked how he planned to respond to the CDC’s “no-navigation command”, the cruise line responded on Friday with a revised statement that it “planned” to start sailing sometime between July and September. He did not provide any other details.

Cruise ships can look very different if they have to follow social distancing rules when resuming operations. (Chris Helgren / Reuters)

Carnival, which the CEO says is financially stable, announced this week plans to resume cruises from August 1, with eight ships sailing from the United States to the Caribbean.

The cruise line said the plan is subject to the approval of stakeholders, such as governments and the CDC.

“Nothing is finalized,” Carnival spokesperson Vance Gulliksen said in an email to CBC News. “A variety of contingencies must be in place before any potential navigation. “

Industry expert Klein estimates that cruise lines have a 30% chance of getting approval to start shipping this summer.

He also wonders if summer cruises would even be profitable, if cruise lines are only allowed to fill half the ship because of social distancing rules.

“You can’t have dining tables with people rubbing their elbows,” he said. “You can’t have slot machines in the casino side by side. “

Who will register?

Passenger demand for cruises also remains a question mark.

Carnival Corp. – who owns Carnival and eight other cruise passengers – told CBC News that she has “extremely loyal” customers who are eager to go on a cruise and that she continues to improve her health and safety protocols.

For Canadians wishing to register, the federal government will first have to lift its advice against cruise and non-essential international travel, then reopen the Canada-US border. The border is currently closed until May 21, and that date may be extended.

But even if the border reopens, many Canadians may not be ready for a cruise. Travel agent Katherine Le said she had no clients inquiring about cruises this summer.

“It is too early for them,” said Le, president of Eastview Travel in Ottawa. ” Customers [are] always like some kind of fear. “

Robert Rorison and his wife, Marilyn of Surrey, British Columbia, plan to cruise the Caribbean in November, if the cruise is deemed safe by then. (Submitted by Robert Rorison)

Robert Rorison of Surrey, British Columbia, agreed. He has participated in more than 40 cruises, but said that he was not yet ready to go back on board.

“The biggest fear is that countries will lock again and not let you dock,” he said.

Rorison speaks from experience: he was aboard the Zaandam, a Holland America Line ship that had a COVID-19 outbreak on board in March. Four passengers died.

The rest of the passengers were stuck on board for more than two weeks because the Zaandam struggled to find a port ready to let it dock and disembark passengers due to fears regarding COVID-19.

“We don’t want to end up in the same situation as we were on Zaandam,” said Rorison. “It was without a doubt one of the worst experiences of our lives. “

Holland America is also owned by Carnival Corp.

Passengers Chris and Anna Joiner send a desperate message of help while stranded on the cruise ship Zaandam with a COVID-19 outbreak and 4 deaths. (Submitted by Chris Joiner)

Even after this horrible experience, Rorison said that he plans to resume cruising at some point, as it is a great way to travel. “You can just get on the ship, hang your clothes and go from port to port in different and wonderful places. “

In January, he and his wife booked a second Caribbean cruise in November. Rorison said he would get on board if the COVID-19 pandemic is found to be under control and cruise ship travel is again considered safe.

“We are counting on the government to tell us whether it is safe or dangerous. If they call it dangerous, we will not go, “he said.

Travel agent Le said that some of her clients were also interested in cruising this fall – if they thought it was safe to do so.

The CDC told CBC News that it does not yet have enough information to state when it will be safe for cruise ships to depart.


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