Port Provides Update on Why Carnival Cruise Ship Is Pulling Out

Mardi Gras will not call in San Juan for the coming two years. A Puerto Rico port official stated the move was made by Carnival to save fuel costs.

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Carnival Cruise Line changed the itineraries for 21 cruises onboard its cruise ship Mardi Gras. Since then, there has been much speculation on why Carnival did this. The situation becomes much clearer in a statement from the Puerto Rico Port Authority. 

According to the local authorities, the changes have been made as a cost-saving exercise. Instead of sailing to San Juan, Carnival has opted for ports nearer to the cruise ship’s homeport, Port Canaveral, Nassau in the Bahamas.

Port Authority Clarifies Mardi Gras Itinerary Changes

Many guests who booked a cruise onboard Mardi Gras between the end of December 2022 and April 2024 got a disappointing surprise this week. Carnival Cruise Line announced it had removed San Juan, Puerto Rico, from the itineraries during this period.

Mardi Gras Cruise Ship
Mardi Gras Cruise Ship in San Juan

While it’s not uncommon for a cruise line to make changes to an itinerary, removing one port for as many as 21 cruises was certainly unexpected. The cruise line did not give any reason for the changes, saying only the following:

“As we continue to refine our operational plans for your cruise, we have replaced our call to San Juan, Puerto Rico, with a visit to Nassau, The Bahamas. Thank you for your understanding. We look forward to welcoming you aboard for a FUN and memorable cruise.”

However, the Port Authority has shed some light on the situation. In a written statement released by the authorities in Puerto Rico, Ports Authority Executive Director Joel Pizá said Wednesday that the Mardi Gras cruise ship itinerary changes from the Port of San Juan are not due to the recent formalization of a public-private alliance.

Some might recall that San Juan recently entered into a service agreement with Global Ports Holdings. The company will be the port’s exclusive service provider and will also build a new dock. 

“In essence, the reason expressed by Carnival is of a financial nature, related to the cost of fuel, and others that they have been explaining to their shareholders, clients, and suppliers,” Pizá said.

According to the Port Director, Carnival had made their plans clear a few days earlier during the Florida-Caribbean Cruise Association (CCA) Annual Convention. 

Is San Juan Too Expensive to Sail To?

Given the rising cost of fuel, and in particular, natural gas, the reasoning given by the port director does make sense. According to him, Carnival’s management stated that saving fuel and preserving their profit margins are the main reasoning behind the move.

Joel Pizá further stated management had told him Mardi Gras would stop sailing 7-day itineraries and replace them with shorter 3-4-day voyages nearer to Port Canaveral. Keeping in mind that there has been no mention or confirmation from Carnival Cruise Line that it would be making a move in that direction.

Carnival Mardi Gras
Photo Courtesy: Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line made a similar swap for Mardi Gras‘ San Juan calls with Nassau in February of this year; this latest change appears to be merely a continuation of that adjustment.

“We have had further conversations with Carnival, and we hope that their economic situation improves and that their business model can sustain more voyages with longer itineraries and more stops in Puerto Rico,” the official said.

While guests may not like these changes, there is little they can do about it. Cruise lines reserve the right to make changes to their itineraries for any variety of reasons without having to clarify these or give compensation for lost ports.

There is also no denying that Carnival Cruise Line has been hard at work to solidify its financial position. Changes were necessary with a stock price for parent company Carnival Corporation that has been at record-low levels in the past months. Removing San Juan is the next step in this process. 

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