(10:15 a.m. EST) – In a signal that the conditions being put on cruise lines to return to service are more complicated than expected, Carnival Cruise Lines has extended its suspension for cruises into 2021, with February 1 being the earliest possible date.
All sailings leaving from U.S. homeports have been canceled through January 31, 2021. In addition, sailings leaving from Baltimore, Charleston, Jacksonville, Long Beach, Mobile, New Orleans and San Diego have been canceled through February 28. Carnival Legend won't sail from Tampa until at least March 26.
Four ships that were scheduled for drydocks in the first half of 2021 – Magic, Paradise, Valor and Radiance – won't return to service until the work is done, the line also said. They are not being listed as returning in 2021.
The release from Carnival outlining the changes said that the suspensions come as the line "continues to build and implement its plan to meet the requirements of the Framework for Resuming Cruise Ship Operations Order issued on Oct. 30 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)."
“We are committed to meeting the CDC requirements and keeping our guests and business partners informed of our progress,” line President Christine Duffy said in the release. “The entire Carnival team appreciates the great support of our guests, travel advisors and business partners, and local officials in our homeports and destinations.”
The line also reiterated that service resumption would focus initially on Miami and Port Canaveral in Florida, followed by Galveston. Carnival Horizon arrives in Miami this week and Carnival Breeze will be the next ship back in the U.S., the line said.
In total, Carnival expects to have 16 ships in service in the U.S. in 2021, the line said. The ships include Carnival Conquest, Dream, Ecstasy, Elation, Freedom, Glory, Liberty, Miracle, Panorama, Pride, Sensation, Sunrise, Sunshine and Vista.
The line's keenly anticipated newbuild, Mardi Gras, currently under construction in Finland, will also enter service in 2021.
While booked passengers will appreciate the clarity of the 2021 ships being listed now, the reduction in the sailing fleet shows just how arduous a task it will be for a cruise line to get back up and running at previous levels.
In 2019, Carnival had 27 ships sailing in the U.S. Now there are 23 in the fleet, with Mardi Gras and another newbuild, Celebration, on the way. Ships that made up the line's oldest class, the Fantasy class, were already sold for scrap, including Fantasy, Fascination, Imagination and Inspiration.
The January 2021 cancellations also show that meeting the CDC conditions to return to service, which include extensive requirements for crew quarantine and COVID-19 testing, as well as simulated test cruises to run through virus health and safety measures, will take cruise lines longer than originally anticipated.
Before the CDC order came out in late October, cruise line presidents seemed confident that some form of cruising would be possible still within 2020. Those hopes quickly evaporated, not just with the CDC requirements, but with the virus spike within the United States and Europe.
Now all U.S. cruise lines have suspended sailings through the end of 2020, with several smaller and luxury brands canceling into spring 2021.