Carnival Cruise Line Reacts Following Miami Delays

What is it really like when the world's largest cruise line has to cope with unexpected delays on its largest ship?

Sunday was crazy at PortMiami, with a boat collision that closed channel access for nearly 12 hours, delaying some of the world’s largest cruise ships and disrupting vacation plans for 30,000 travelers. Carnival Cruise Line, however, stepped up to keep guests informed, comfortable, and enjoying the unexpected hurdles of their fun getaway.

The cruise line’s brand ambassador, John Heald, has addressed the unusual situation, including the amazing work by onboard crew members, port staff, and guests.

Unusual Closure at PortMiami Causes Massive Delays

PortMiami was closed from approximately 4 a.m. Sunday morning, June 25, 2023 until 3 p.m. after a 30-foot boat collided with a ferry in the Government Cut channel. The smaller boat sank with one fatality. Due to safety concerns and the possibility of environmental contamination, port access was closed and incoming cruise ships could not return to their docks.

Carnival Cruise Line Christens New Ship in Miami
Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

This included the Excel-class Carnival Celebration with its more than 6,000 guests, and 6,000 more waiting to board for the next cruise.

It is not uncommon for weather to delay a cruise ship, but it is usually possible to predict when the weather may clear and plans can be updated to keep guests informed. Because of this unusual situation, it was not possible to know how long the port would remain closed.

Team Effort in an Unusual Situation

Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald, as well as onboard and shoreside staff, kept Carnival Celebration‘s guests apprised throughout the day with multiple updates.

Now that the situation has been resolved and Carnival’s flagship has set sail on her next cruise – albeit much later than originally planned – Heald has discussed the excellent teamwork involved in keeping everyone safe and comfortable during the delay.

Onboard Crew Members

First, onboard Carnival team members who began their day as planned to cook, clean, and prepare the ship for the next sailing had their schedules radically altered to accommodate the unusual situation.

“They started work at 6:00 am cleaning the ship, preparing breakfast, moving thousands of pieces of luggage from outside the cabins down I95 to the marshaling area,” Heald described. “They cleaned the cabins of the guests who had already left for an early breakfast and what they had hoped an early debarkation. It was a normal debarkation day until suddenly it wasn’t.”

Each department had to attend to different tasks throughout the day. From preparing meals for guests who should have been on their way home to providing new entertainment options to helping young cruisers cope with unexpected stress, team members pitched in to ensure everyone was having fun.

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Photo Credit: Lost_in_the_Midwest / Shutterstock

“For Captain, Officers, Staff and Crew the day started at 6:00 am and finished in the wee small hours of the following morning,” Heald explained.

Onboard crew members addressed questions and concerns throughout the day, including helping guests rearrange flight travel and providing official letters for travelers to present to their airlines if they booked flights independently. These letters were to help explain the situation and mitigate any fees incurred for flight changes if possible.

Guests onboard reported that they were permitted to remain in their staterooms for most of the day, most food venues were open, and both entertainment and child care were provided.

Lee Mason, the ship’s cruise director, kept everyone informed and helped make the very long day as enjoyable as possible under difficult circumstances.

Shoreside Team

Staff in Cruise Terminal F also needed to adapt to the suddenly changed situation when they arrived early in the morning to debark guests who were actually still waiting offshore.

“I am sure these wonderful men and women will have done all they could during what was a stressful and very long day,” Heald said. “So a big thank you to them all for their hard work to help disembark 6,000 people and 8 hours later than scheduled help 6,000 more check in and board the ship.”

Carnival Cruise Terminal
Photo Credit: JHVEPhoto / Shutterstock

Staff members circulated among crowds at the terminal to distribute notification letters and keep arriving guests informed of the situation, and some team members were also positioned at Bayside Marketplace – a nearby mall with multiple dining options – so guests could relax there and still stay apprised of updates.

Guest Cooperation

Both the guests onboard Carnival Celebration as well as those arriving for the next sailing were largely polite, accepting, and understanding, according to Heald.

“They understood that this was not a Carnival incident and far bigger than just affecting the Carnival Celebration,” he said. “I say on behalf of our President Christine Duffy thank you, thank you for your patience, your understanding and your kindness to the embarkation staff to each other and of course to the crew.”

Carnival did its best to keep everyone informed of the situation, and provided $20 of onboard credit to help compensate incoming guests for their lunch expenses in Miami. Complimentary shuttle busses were also provided to Bayside Marketplace.

Because of the extremely late embarkation – from 8-11 p.m. – dinner was provided not through specialty restaurant reservations or set dining times Sunday evening, but instead through open seating in the Festivale Restaurant main dining room on Decks 6 and 7 and in the Lido Marketplace buffet on Deck 16.

Guests who prepaid for gratuities, wi-fi packages, and drink packages were also credited for one day’s cost on their Sail & Sign accounts.

Despite the challenging circumstances, Carnival Cruise Line truly rose to the unusual situation and demonstrated exactly why they are the world’s most popular cruise line with 50 years of FUN sailings behind them, and many, many more years of fun cruises to come.


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