Carnival Cruise Line has zeroed in on Miami as one of two ports to restart U.S. cruises after a months-long hiatus due to COVID-19.
Following the White House’s intervention Tuesday to block the U.S. Disease Control and Prevention from banning cruises until February 2021 as the agency had planned, the current cruise ban is set to expire on Oct. 31. On Thursday, Carnival canceled all cruises for November and December except for those that will leave from PortMiami and Port Canaveral, which are on track to restart Nov. 1.
Competitors Royal Caribbean Group, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and MSC Cruises continue to sell cruises from Miami for November. Disney Cruise Line and Virgin Voyages are selling cruises for December.
The industry first shut down in mid-March amid COVID-19 outbreaks on several ships.
“As we have said throughout this pause, our return to operations will be gradual and phased in,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, in a press release. “And while we are not making any presumptions, once cruising is allowed, we will center our initial start-up from the home ports of Miami and Port Canaveral.”
Carnival Corporation, the parent company of its namesake line and eight others, moved all of its ships out of U.S. waters in June and has not reported onboard illnesses to the CDC since then, a requirement only for ships in U.S. waters. Four cruise ships currently in U.S. waters are experiencing or resolving COVID-19 outbreaks among crew, according to the CDC. At least seven Carnival Cruise Line ships have been affected by COVID-19 since March, according to a Miami Hearld investigation.
In May, Carnival Cruise Line announced plans to restart on Aug. 1 using eight ships from PortMiami, Port Canaveral and the Port of Galveston in Texas. Those plans got derailed when the CDC extended its cruise ban in July.
Ahead of that ban’s expiration on Wednesday, the White House overruled the agency’s plan to extend the no-sail order to February 2021 following weeks of industry lobbying. Instead, the CDC no-sail order extended just one more month, through Oct. 31.
The cruise industry’s lobbying group, Cruise Lines International Association, said all of its member lines, including Carnival, will test passengers and crew before boarding when cruises resume.
Most Carnival ships now linger just outside of U.S. waters. Eleven of them, which normally operate in U.S. waters, are huddled together in the ocean east of Bimini, and one is docked in Freeport. The company has scrapped three ships — Fantasy, Inspiration, and Imagination — and sold another, Fascination.
The company can have ships ready to welcome passengers again in as quickly as 30 days, Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald said previously.