|In a move that may be signaling that Europe as a cruise destination has become oversaturated (and that long-haul airline travel is proving to be increasingly daunting for North Americans), Carnival is pulling Carnival Freedom from its previously announced 2009 summer itineraries in the Mediterranean and positioning it year-round in the Caribbean.|
Carnival Freedom was always intended to sail Caribbean cruises in the winter, but was originally scheduled to return to the Mediterranean in spring 2009. With this change, Carnival Liberty will now be the only Carnival ship scheduled to sail in Europe next year. It will depart on Baltic cruises from May through August followed by Mediterranean cruises through mid-November. No changes are planned for the Liberty's stated itineraries.
Carnival Freedom will return to the U.S. after its Mediterranean season and will be based in Ft. Lauderdale. The ship will sail a series of six-night Caribbean cruises to Key West, Grand Cayman and Jamaica, and alternating eight-night Eastern and Western Caribbean itineraries. The Eastern itinerary features calls in San Juan, St. Thomas, Antigua, Tortola and Nassau, and the Western itinerary stops at Cozumel, Mexico; Limon, Costa Rica; and Colon, Panama. The ship will stay there at least through November 2009 (Carnival's website has not yet been updated with the itinerary changes).
On Cruise Critic's message boards, readers are speculating whether the line just can't sustain two ships overseas with today's fuel costs. "I think it may be a fuel/air cost issues," says Faeriechick. Nothomeonacruise agrees, "The expense of moving a ship the size of the Freedom across the Atlantic might be a factor. Plus, they have to be able to produce a good product at a reasonable cost to the passenger."
If you're already booked on Carnival Freedom's 2009 Europe cruises, you can cancel or rebook without penalty through July 10. If you choose to rebook, you'll receive a $50 per stateroom credit and any payments made will apply to the new booking. Also, if you choose to switch to the same cabin class on Carnival Liberty, your original fare for Freedom will be protected. As airline inventory is typically not available more than a year out, Carnival is not offering any compensation for airline change fees under the assumption that most booked passengers have not yet bought airfare for their 2009 cruise.
-- by Erica Silverstein, Associate Editor