Carnival Cruise Line "may have no choice" but to move its ships out of U.S. homeports to resume operations if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention don't lift the no-sail order put in place last year in response to the COVID-19 outbreak, company officials said.
The South Florida-based cruise line on Tuesday extended its pause of all operations out of U.S. ports through June 30.
"We know that this is very disappointing to our guests who continue to be eager to sail, and we remain committed to working with the Administration and the CDC to find a workable solution that best serves the interest of public health," Carnival President Christine Duffy said in a statement.
The CDC has blocked cruise ships from U.S. ports with a no-sail order since March 2020, after outbreaks on several ships around the world.
On Friday, the CDC updated its guidance to say that fully vaccinated people can travel within the U.S. without getting tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine afterward. It also issued more technical details around its conditional plan to allow cruise ships in U.S. ports, but it did not say when cruise lines could resume sailing.
Duffy said the company is working on a "return to service solution" that may mean moving ships out of the U.S.
"We are asking that the cruise industry be treated on par with the approach being taken with other travel and tourism sectors, as well as U.S. society at large," Duffy said. “While we have not made plans to move Carnival Cruise Line ships outside of our U.S. homeports, we may have no choice but to do so in order to resume our operations which have been on ‘pause’ for over a year."
Carnival said booked guests and travel advisors are being notified directly of the cancellations and the options for a future cruise credit plus onboard credit package, or a full refund.
To provide flexibility for guests booked on July itineraries that remain in the schedule, Carnival is extending final payment deadlines for all July sailings to May 31, 2021, with the ability to cancel without penalty.
On Monday, the Norwegian Cruise Line announced they were seeking permission to resume trips from U.S. ports on July 4, requiring passengers and crew members to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at least two weeks before the trip.
The Miami company said its precautions go well beyond steps taken by others in the travel and leisure industry that have already reopened, including airlines, hotel, restaurants and sporting events.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd plans to begin U.S. sailings at 60% of capacity and raise that to 80% in August and 100% in September. Norwegian also operates Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.
The CDC said Monday that it "is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising” following a phased approach. “Cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is difficult," especially with concern over new variants of COVID-19, the agency added.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last month threatened to file a lawsuit if the CDC didn't allow cruise ships to resume operations soon.
Titi Puente, the longtime owner of Sedici Cafe in downtown Miami, said before the pandemic, more than 70% of his business was from cruise ships.
“You’ve got a spot that unloads crew members — they would stop here, go to Walgreens, Marshalls and Whole Foods," said Puente, who was forced to close the cafe's doors for the last year. "They are the economic engine of downtown and they have been for 29 years since I’ve been here."
“We continue to feel very encouraged. PortMiami is working closely with Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, the CDC, the cruise lines, and other Miami-Dade County partners on the safe restart of cruise operations," the county said in a statement. "Miami-Dade is the Cruise Capital of the World and we are ready to partner with the CDC to chart a path forward to restart passenger cruising with vaccinated passengers and crew.”