With staffing challenges posing major problems for cruise lines to maintain the level of service expected onboard, Carnival Cruise Line has announced the temporary, limited closure of two popular specialty dining venues through June 30, 2022.
This fleet-wide closure impacts all ships except the new flagship, Mardi Gras, and while it is temporary, the announcement does indicate that the closure could be extended further into the future if necessary.
Cucina Del Capitano and Chef’s Table Temporarily Closed
The two impacted venues are the family-style Italian restaurant, Cucina Del Capitano, and the elite dining experience, Chef’s Table.
In an email sent to impacted guests on May 16, Carnival Cruise Line explained, “The challenge of securing visas for cruise industry employees has impacted staffing levels, particularly in our culinary team.”
Because of low staffing, it is necessary to close the two venues and reassign staff to continue providing excellent service in other dining venues. The closures are only temporary, however, affecting sailings through June 30, 2022. If future sailings are to be impacted, additional announcements will be made.
Cucina del Capitano is a favorite aboard nine ships in the Carnival fleet: Breeze, Horizon, Magic, Panorama, Radiance, Sunrise, Sunshine, Vista, and Mardi Gras. Now, only Mardi Gras will be operating the venue, which offers flavorful Italian dishes such as pasta, salads, soup, and desserts, all in a homestyle setting complete with checkered tablecloths, exposed brick, and vintage photos.
“We are making some modest adjustments to some of our service offerings for the time being, so that we can maximize the guest experience and our guest service. Most of these will have a negligible impact.” the email, signed by Neil Palomba, Chief Operations Officer, said.
The letter continued to say, “However, one change that will impact your cruise is that we are temporarily suspending dinner service at Cucina del Capitano across the fleet through the end of June. Note: Cucina on Mardi Gras will continue to function as normal.”
Chef’s Table is a VIP dining experience with very limited capacity, typically just 14 guests per seating. The meal includes a multi-course dinner hosted by the ship’s Master Executive Chef, beginning with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and followed by exquisite dishes not available on other restaurant menus.
All Chef’s Table operations fleet-wide are now halted through June 30, 2022.
Refunds and Alternatives
Guests who have pre-booked dinner reservations at Cucina del Capitano or the Chef’s Table experience will automatically have those reservations canceled and charges returned to their original form of payment.
It is not necessary to contact Carnival Cruise Line for those adjustments, but guests should be patient as it may take several days for the cancelations and refunds to be visible on their accounts.
Guests can still experience the delicious Italian tastes of Cucina del Capitano, however. While dinner reservations are no longer possible at the moment, the venue will remain open with its limited menu for lunch, and select entrees will also be offered in the Main Dining Room for dinner at no additional charge.
Paperwork Backlog Causing Difficulties
The reason cited for these closures is delays in processing crew members’ visas, which are necessary documentation before they can join their assigned ships for work contracts.
“There is a hefty backlog of visas to process and many crew members who are willing and able to return to the ships cannot return until their paperwork is complete,” one announcement read.
This follows on Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald’s comments earlier in the day, when he noted “we have some crew shortages on board which has meant we have needed to make changes to some of the events on board and I know that this is another challenge.”
Carnival Cruise Line is currently working with the U.S. State Department to expedite visa processing and alleviate these staffing challenges.
In the meantime, other onboard venues may also have staffing limitations, and it is possible there may be more closures forthcoming or onboard activities may be impacted.
At this challenging and unprecedented time, cruise passengers should remain flexible with their vacation expectations, and make the most of all the Fun Ships and their dedicated crews are able to offer.