(4:10 p.m. EDT) -- Carnival Cruise Line is continuing its restart with three cruise ships resuming service in September and another four in October, all operating as vaccinated cruises.
The announcement, which will bring Carnival's total ships in service to 15 by the end of October, marks good news for smaller ports, such as Baltimore and Mobile.
In October, the four ships are Carnival Conquest from Miami, starting October 8; Carnival Freedom from Miami, starting October 9; Carnival Elation from Port Canaveral, on October 11, and Carnival Sensation from Mobile, beginning October 21.
Because the line intends to operate these sailings with at least 95 percent vaccinated guests, the ships will not have to do test cruises. Carnival's current policy with unvaccinated guests -- mostly children under 12 who can't get a COVID-19 vaccine -- is that booked passengers apply for an exemption, which is granted 14 days before the sailing. A limited number of exemptions are available.
In addition, all unvaccinated passengers including kids are subject to pre-cruise and pre-embarkation testing, as well as testing again before getting off, with a charge of $150 per person to cover the costs. Kid programs are limited to vaccinated youth ages 12 and older. Unvaccinated passengers departing from Florida after July 31 and Texas after August 2 also need to show proof of travel insurance coverage.
The line said in its release that it was keeping its vaccine requirement "based on the success of its initial resumption of service and the guest response to the onboard experience and health and safety protocols that have been implemented." Because the passengers and crew are mostly vaccinated, face masks do not need to be worn onboard.
Ships that have already returned to service include Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze from Galveston and Carnival Horizon from Miami. Carnival Miracle is slated to begin sailing from Seattle to Alaska at the end of July, followed by the long-anticipated debut of Mardi Gras on July 31.
"The decision to sail with vaccinated voyages was a difficult one to make, and we recognize this is disappointing to some of our guests especially the many families with children under the age of 12 who we love to sail, and who love to sail with us," Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy said in the release.
"It’s important to remember that this is a temporary measure given the current circumstances. In consultation with our medical experts and advisors, we’ve determined this plan is in the best interests of the health and safety of our guests, crew and the destinations that we bring our ships to. It’s very important that we continue to maintain the confidence of our destination partners, so that we can provide our guests with the optimal cruise experience and sail our itineraries."
Duffy noted that the line plans to bring back its entire fleet by the end of 2021, with full service extended to families.
"We will continue to offer exemptions to our unvaccinated guests on a limited, capacity-managed basis within 14 days of sailing as we finalize the vaccinated guest count," Duffy said. "he more bookings we initially secure for our cruises with fully vaccinated guests, the more exemptions we can ultimately offer for those unvaccinated guests already booked and those wishing to sail."
The deployments mean that the following cruises are canceled: sailings through September 5 for Carnival Pride from Baltimore; September 11 for Carnival Dream from Galveston; October 4 for Carnival Conquest from Miami and October 16 for Carnival Sensation from Mobile.
Cruises on Carnival Sunshine from Charleston, Carnival Ecstasy from Jacksonville and Carnival Liberty from Port Canaveral will be cancelled through October 31. In addition, a three-day cruise on Carnival Miracle from Long Beach on September 24 is being cancelled, with the ship beginning its sailings from the port on September 27.