News & Opinion | May 5, 2020 2:00 pm

Carnival Cruise Line Hopes to Sail Again in August. Don’t Bet on It.

The operator is under investigation by Congress, but wants to hit the high seas again in time for late summer

Carnival Cruise Line Hopes to Sail Again in August. Don’t Bet on It.
Carnival Cruise Line/Instagram

Last Friday, Congress announced a formal investigation by the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure into why Carnival Corporation, the parent company for Carnival Cruise Line, did not act sooner to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on its ships. This Monday, showcasing a stunning disconnect, Carnival Cruise Line announced it would resume operations for eight different North America-based ships in less than three months from now, on August 1.

That date is a week after the government’s no-sail ban on cruises is set to expire, but there is no data to suggest, let alone guarantee, that August’s arrival is a safe time for cruises. Of all forms of leisure travel in the age of the coronavirus, cruises have been the most notorious, keeping American and foreign travelers stuck at sea for weeks at a time, and contributing to the global death tally. Hundreds have gotten sick on Carnival’s cruise ships, dozens have died, and the CDC has not minced words in emphasizing cruise travel’s role in spreading infection.

The CDC said yesterday that it has not yet discussed opening dates with cruise operators: “We do not have enough information to say when it will be safe for cruise ships to resume sailing.” Royal Caribbean, Carnival’s main competitor, has not yet scheduled a reopening date. While the fleet that would sail for Carnival is small (leaving ports from Texas and Florida), and the desire to keep billions of dollars in hulking assets is understandable, it’s not a great look at the moment. An early reentry could self-inflict further wounds to a company that’s been bleeding all year — share prices are currently down 70 percent.

Carnival seems to already understand its mistake. In a second statement, it backtracked on August 1 as a firm date, and explained that its goal is to take a “phased-in approach,” with dates subject to change, depending on conversations with governmental and public health officials.

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