With still no cruises starting from the U.S. and continued suspensions going further into 2021, it has lead to growing frustrations on major cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Line.
Those who are fans of Carnival will no doubt be following Carnival’s Brand Ambassador John Heald. He recently did an interview chat with the cruise line’s Chief Communications Officer Chris Chiames and posted it on his popular Facebook page.
Chiames responds to the growing frustrations from guests and a number of issues many people are asking about including the mistake of posting COVID policies too early, dealing with the CDC, and the current situation on Alaska cruises.
CDC & Vaccines
The entire industry in the U.S. is waiting on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) on when they can go cruising. It’s proving to be a very complicated process that cruisers have now been waiting for since the Conditional Sailing Order was first announced on October 30, 2020.
In answering Heald’s question about where things stand at the moment and the frustrations from guests, Chaimes said, “I can tell them they’re absolutely right to be frustrated because certainly all of us at Carnival are as well.”
When the No Sail Order came to an end, there was hope that cruises would finally get going again, starting with test sailings. However, we’ve pretty much heard nothing, and Carnival Cruise Line is in the same boat. Chaimes went on to say, “Sometimes the answer is truly “we don’t know” and that’s the honest truth right now when anyone asks me “When will cruising resume?”
The focus does now seem to be on the vaccine rollout and how fast it can happen. It’s unknown if any major cruise lines will follow UK-based SAGA Cruises by only allowing vaccinated guests.
It’s all remaining very fluid at the moment and there has been a widespread shift to focus on vaccine rollout, “There was a lot of work on protocols, but the introduction of the vaccine, the renewed effort to ramp up vaccine production and distribution, and the goal of getting more people vaccinated quickly has appropriately taken the priority with regard to a number of activities and a “return to normal.”
Chaimes said that it was not their job to speak for the CDC. No matter how frustrated the cruise line is, they are simply doing what they can and waiting just like everyone else. He said, “the faster more Americans get the vaccine, the closer we will get to the resumption of cruising.”
Carnival’s Policy Mistake
As the news started coming out of Canada banning cruise ships for one-year, Carnival quietly released new COVID policies and procedures on its website. This was later picked up by the media as it was the first insight into what a cruise experience could be like once the cruise line restarts operations.
Days later it came to light that releasing those details was a mistake. Carnival swiftly removed them all and in a statement released to Cruise Hive, the cruise line said “In our haste to keep guests and travel agents informed, we posted some information that was not finalized. As we have said previously, guests should expect mask, testing, distancing and other protocols. We intend to provide more details over the coming weeks as we work to resume operations.”
So in response to Heald’s question on what happened with posting the new protocols and then removing them, Chaimes said “We goofed. In our haste, we posted something that wasn’t right. And to be clear, they weren’t protocols as much as a disclosure about what COULD be required.”
The vaccines could have an impact on any new protocols and Chaimes also mentioned that any new protocols could be changed further.
Cruises to Alaska
Last week, Canada shocked the cruise industry by banning ships with a passenger capacity of over 100 for one year. Chaimes has said that there is no certainty yet on cruises to Alaska and “We know that the Canadian government said no cruises to Canadian ports until early 2022. But that caught a lot of people by surprise. Most especially public officials and tourism interests in Alaska.”
He went on to say “here are discussions going on at a variety of levels. Carnival Cruise Line is not going to drive those discussions, because we are a relatively small player in the Alaska cruise market, compared to our sister brands under Carnival Corporation, or our competitors.”
It really all comes down to the Passengers Vessels Services Act and cruise ships having to call at a foreign port if departing from the U.S. Unless that changes or something magically comes out, it’s likely the Alaska season will be canceled.
Cruise lines are still assessing the situation and nothing has yet been announced. Cruise lines were surprised by the announcing from Canada and it impacts many cruises so no doubt time is needed to sort it all out.
Situation on Cruises Longer than Seven Days
John Heald said during the interview that many of his followers were asking about the status of cruises longer than seven days. This is part of the CDC requirements on the Conditional Sailing Order and cruise lines have already removed these longer sailings through October 31, 2021.
Chaimes said about this, “Those options became complicated by the broader discussions about protocols, vaccines, the availability of certain destinations, and how itineraries might be adjusted.” He went on to say “We know that guests are still waiting for answers, and since we can’t provide definitive ones, we are taking the action we communicated today to those guests.”
That mainly about communications going out to impacted guests who have booked sailings more than seven days long. They do have the option to cancel without any penalty or even hang tight to see if the cruises will end up going ahead.
The Bottom Line
The take we got from this is that Carnival is frustrated just like the guests. We’re all just waiting on the CDC on what decisions are made in allowing cruises to safely return. The cruise line is doing what it can to be fully prepared but it’s the details that matter. The CDC is very much focused on rolling out the vaccines as fast as possible and that will mean a return to some normality sooner.
At the end of the interview by John Heald, Chaimes said “I just want to add that while we value the loyalty and daily engagement of our fans – or should I say YOUR fans – you are not always in a position to answer their questions. Sometimes you don’t have the answer. Sometimes WE don’t have the answer.”
For now, Carnival Cruise Line has canceled cruises through April 2021. Cruises in the U.S. are currently scheduled to begin from May. However, we have not year heard on test sailings from the CDC and those have to take place first.
Until then, Carnival is also brining crew members back to the ships to get them ready and making sure the fleet can be a safe as passable for the crew and guests. Everything else is a waiting game.