Carnival Cruise Line will not be sailing to Key West for the time being. The company cancelled two visits for two ships in January and said it is continuing negotiations.
It has been a hectic year for the island, which only recently saw the return of cruise ships to the popular tourist destination in the Florida Keys. Locals overwhelmingly voted for a ban on large cruise ships last year, which drew heavy criticism from state officials, including Governor DeSantis.
The debate whether Key West should allow cruise ships into its port continues, and in the meantime, some cruise ships have already returned to the island. Nonetheless, Carnival’s president Christine Duffy has said in a message sent to guests on January 4 that the current negotiations with local officials are ongoing.
At least for two calls this January, until discussions are concluded, and an agreement is in place, Carnival Sunrise and Carnival Conquest will not call in Key West. Christine Duffy said the following in her message to guests booked on the affected sailings:
“We are still in discussions with the Key West officials on our restart plans. For the time being, we will skip the call to Key West for the sailings indicated below. This will allow us to extend our time in Cozumel, Mexico.”
Carnival Sunrise would have called in Key West on January 7 as part of her 4-day Western-Caribbean itinerary from Miami, Florida, which departs on January 6. The vessel will now be staying longer in Cozumel.
Carnival Conquest was initially scheduled to call in Key West on her January 10 4-day Western Caribbean cruise from Miami. Conquest will now only call in Cozumel, where she will stay from 08:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
It is not clear when calls to Key West will be resuming: “We are sorry for this change in plans and thank you for your understanding and we are actively working with local Key West city officials and the wider community to resume our calls as soon as possible,” Christine Duffy said.
Of course, the return to Key West is very much dependent on the local government, which is still trying its best to enforce the result from a referendum held more than a year ago.
While the Safer, Cleaner Ships organization and local commissioners are still pushing to ban cruise ships from Key West, the city’s new lawyer believes there isn’t much room to enforce the referendum results.
During a meeting at the local city hall in mid-December, attorney Ed Pozzuoli said he would advise the city commissioners to look for a different solution than an outright ban. Primarily because Pier B, the only pier now receiving cruise ship traffic is privately owned:
Ed Pozzuoli: “I could not advise you to put into ordinance a mirror image of the voter referendums without you understanding the potential liability, but I believe we could get close through other means. There’s a long-standing contract with Pier B, and it’s not just a contract, but a formal development agreement. It runs through 2025 and is subject to an automatic renewal of 10 years….You’re governed now by that development agreement with Pier B.”
Any possible discussion would mean fewer ships sailing to the islands, something that the owner of Pier B is willing to compromise in. However, Mr. Pozzouili further stated that the city government has little legal basis for banning cruise ships, which would include Pier B.
“Could you? Yes. Do I think you have legal grounds to do it? No. I’d rather spend your fees working toward a resolution rather than fighting litigation.”
It would seem then that these are the discussions that Carnival Cruise Line is having and following closely at the moment.
For now, it seems that calls to Key West are off the program. When will they return? With the current increases in Omicron and already one cruise line cancelling some cruises into April of this year, it is anyone’s guess.