August of which year? 2024? Maybe. August of this year? Errrrr ….. what could go wrong? Plenty:
Carnival Cruise Line on Monday announced a plan to phase in some North American cruises beginning August 1.
Eight ships will depart from Miami, Port Canaveral, Florida and Galveston, Texas, Carnival said in a statement.
“In connection with this plan, our pause in operations will be extended in all other North American and Australian markets through August 31,” the statement said.
Does this seem a bit rushed? Just how many Americans will want to jump onto a cruise while COVID-19 continues to circulate, especially if an effective vaccine has not been widely rolled out? Allahpundit noted earlier today that progress and optimism for a vaccine have both accelerated in recent days, but it’s highly doubtful that even the Oxford vaccine candidate will have completed all of its trials by August 1, let alone be made available. Some Americans will no doubt say “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead,” but enough to sail off one of these massive resort hotels on the sea?
Let’s not forget that these ships require crews to cruise too. Another major cruise provider has yet to even get their crews off of some of their ships. ABC News reported shortly after Carnival’s announcement earlier today that negotiations continue between Royal Caribbean and the CDC to disembark employees from ships, crews that have been stuck for weeks in limbo:
[Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael] Bayley said American crew members on ships close to the U.S. will be repatriated with private transportation beginning on May 6. American crew members off the coast of Barbados and at its Perfect Day resort will be put on a ship to Miami then transferred to private transportation “and are expected to be home no later than May 14.”
American crew members in the Mediterranean will be flown home by May 20 and American crew members in Asia will be flown home from the Philippines as soon as the airport in Manila reopens.
Bayley said in his note that the CDC will only let crew members disembark if company executives, including himself, “are willing to attest — subject to criminal penalties including imprisonment — that we will not use any public transportation and that each crew member will comply with certain conditions after disembarking the ships.”
Bayley added the company is “happy” to comply with the CDC’s requests, “but the criminal penalties gave us (and our lawyers) pause.”
The CDC issued its own statement earlier today that it hasn’t received any plans yet from Royal Caribbean, but that they will expedite their review when received. Nonetheless, they also made clear that they are taking into account “the health of the communities to which they will be returning.” After having gone through all of this trouble just to get home, how many experienced crew will want to rush back on board to serve people who might be spreading COVID-19 — or who knows what else — all over again? Especially knowing that these same companies kept sailing even though they knew the risks involved to passengers and crews alike?
Early in March, the world’s cruise-ship operators had ample evidence to believe their fleet of luxury liners were incubators for the new coronavirus.
Yet they continued to fill cruise ships with passengers, endangering those aboard and helping spread Covid-19 to the U.S. and around the globe, a Wall Street Journal investigation found.
All told, the Journal found that the cruise industry launched voyages on more than 100 ships on or after March 4—the day of the first confirmed Covid-19 death of a passenger from a cruise stopping in the U.S., a marker of the pandemic’s long reach.
The Wall Street Journal notes today that the lengthy pause will hammer operators just as they normally would be preparing for their busiest and mosr lucrative season:
The pandemic has dried up cruise bookings—decimating the industry—and companies are set to miss out on the usually lucrative summer months with the extended cancellations. Carnival in March posted a loss for the fiscal first quarter and expected to turn a loss for the year. It said advanced bookings for the remainder of the year were meaningfully lower than the prior year, with prices offered at a discount as demand evaporated.
One has to wonder whether Carnival’s decision doesn’t have something to do with those cancellation demands. Right now they have no choice but to offer credits or refunds for scheduled cruises in May, June, and July, draining their coffers and their resources for rebounding. The industry got shut out of the relief bills passed by Congress, thanks to their decisions to avoid US taxes and regulation by registering their operations elsewhere. If they decide to start sailing again in August, they might end up arguing that they don’t owe anyone a refund or credit for customer-initiated cancellations, and perhaps no unemployment for crew members who choose not to show up for work, either.
Or, perhaps, everyone will be so anxious to celebrate a break from quarantine that they’ll rush on board cruise ships for an adventure. They may end up going right back into another quarantine at the end if they do, though, so perhaps they’d better arrange for three weeks off from work on those vacations.