Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy did a live zoom call for travel agents on Wednesday afternoon with Adolfo Perez, the cruise line’s SVP of global sales and trade marketing.
Duffy discussed the situation on vaccine requirements and the reasoning behind the decisions, Mardi Gras’ arrival and the latest on resuming cruise operations. She also answered some questions from travel agents.
The zoom call which was hosted by Perez and featured the Carnival Cruise Line president was an interesting 30 minutes and the new Mardi Gras cruise ship which recently arrived at Port Canaveral for the very first time was one of the main topics.
It was no doubt an emotional and exciting moment when the new Carnival cruise entered the port and Duffy said that around 1,500 people were at the port to welcome her. She even got a chance to go onboard, something which many people will be jealous about as travel professionals were not allowed to go onboard due to the current COVID situation.
Duffy said, “it was a very exciting day, I think, first of all, to see Mardi Gras come in and she’s just a beautiful ship and there was a lot of emotion. We were so excited to see. We had about 1,500 people that came on their own to be there for her arrival and obviously the new terminal at Canaveral that was purpose-built for Mardi Gras is really beautiful as well.”
The ship completed her first refueling at the port as she will make her way out at sea for a short time before returning back. While in the U.S. and waiting to sail Duffy said that a lot still needs to be done to get the ship prepared for guests.
Containers are being delivered to the ship with things such as art and furniture. She said that the entertainment team also has a lot of rehearsals to do to get familiar with the new designs of the vessel.
As Mardi Gras has been on hold since being delivered at the end of 2020, the entertainment team has not had a chance to familiarize themselves with the ship ready for guests to enjoy the shows.
Duffy said, “So there’s still a lot of work. The team has to do to make her guests ready. So we’ve got containers and Canaveral. Then we’ll still load furniture and art and other things onto the ship. We’ve got our entertainment team that unfortunately has not been able to rehearse on board. And the ship design is completely different with our grand beautiful atrium with four Florida ceiling windows and aerialists.”
Duffy said towards the end of the talk, getting the ship sailing again is a priority, and they would not have brought her over from Spain if there was no chance of doing that. Carnival Cruise Line will soon be releasing further details on Mardi Gras’ inaugural voyage, and there was a hint that could be released on Friday.
There was a question about Mardi Gras’ christening from Perez and at the moment no naming ceremony date has been announced.
But Duffy did say, “like everything else we don’t know, but the first, first, first priority is to get Mardi Gras sailing again with guests. And so we’re going to actually, I will share this. When we talk about Mardi Gras, uh, we will be talking about a lot of pre-inaugural value, um, that we are going to provide to our guests because we know people have waited a long time.”
Returning to Service and Vaccines
During the discussion, the Carnival Cruise Line president touched about ships returning to service and they’ll be revealing what ships will begin sailing in August on Friday, something that has already been confirmed by Carnival Cruise Line Ambassador John Heald.
However, Duffy said the health protocols for August won’t be locked in right now and they will wait to see how the situation is in around two weeks from now. The health protocols for Carnival Horizon departures from PortMiami are also set to come out before the end of the week.
There has been a lot of talk in the cruising world of vaccines and what Carnival Cruise Line will require once operations begin with Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze out of the Port of Galveston in Texas. It has no doubt be challenging on working with the CDC to resume cruises safely.
Duffy said, “So it took us a long time to get to the place whereas the vaccines were distributed and, you know, we were still operating under this old conditional sale order from CDC, to get back to the table with CDC and with the support of the other agencies from the administration to talk about what was reasonable and what was the path for restart knowing that we really wanted to be back in the water for July”
The CDC offers two routes for cruise lines to resume operations. There is one where at least 95% of guests and crew are fully vaccinated, which would then have more relaxed rules onboard. The other route is to offer a more restricted cruise experience for non-vaccinated passengers.
Duffy went into the reasoning why the cruises out of Galveston with Carnival Vista and Breeze are for fully vaccinated guests. She said, “I think I was very clear and public, uh, on multiple occasions expressing my concern for the option for that was unvaccinated really did not allow any exemption or opportunity for people to sail with children under 12, who aren’t eligible for a vaccine.”
She continued to say “So for the future, it looks like this will all be workable, but we did have to make a decision. For our restart, because our first sailing that we’ve announced is going to be with Carnival Vista out of Galveston on July 3rd.”
“And we did decide that we’re going to go with the vaccinated cruises because part of the criteria under unvaccinated would be that all the vaccinated guests would have to wear masks indoors and we felt that that would really be uncomfortable and difficult for people who did have a vaccine.”
“There’s also a lot of social distancing and other requirements for sailing with unvaccinated guests. And we just feel given where we are, the number of children that we have at our young, under 12, we just felt like we. Unfortunately need to start off this way.”
Duffy made it clear that the situation remains very difficult and that the cruise line will also have to work with authorities in the different destinations that ships sail to.
Port agreements have to be made, and then there is the entire process of ensuring guests can remain protected on shore excursions. The cruise line is dealing with each ship differently when currently working through the issues for each port of call.
When it comes to the vaccine passport ban in Florida signed by Governor Desantis, Duffy said, “I’ll say this, everybody has the same objective. The CDC wants to see us back starting cruising again. And certainly, governor DeSantis, who was really such a big supporter for getting the, getting us back at the table and working through this, we know that he wants cruise cruises to begin from Florida in the month of July.
“So I believe it’s Wednesday. So, we’ll be optimistic that this is going to get worked out and we’ll be able to proceed with the plans that, that we’ve announced.”
The vaccine passport ban is et to begin on July 1, so many cruisers are worries what will happen. The good news is that the Florida governor wants cruises to resume operations, he even filed a lawsuit against the CDC to make that happen, How that plays out remains to be seen and cruise line are working with Florida to overcome the vaccine passport ban.
There is so much going on when it comes to resuming cruise operations but things are moving forward for the U.S. cruise industry including Carnival Cruise Line.
You can watch the full discussion between Christine Duffy and Adolfo Perez below: