Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald says it is too soon to tell what exact changes cruisers will see on ships once they return to service and calls the company’s August 1 return announcement an “insightfull mistake”.
Earlier this month Carnival Cruise Line revealed a plan to phase in a resumption in their North American service. According to the plan Carnival would return to service on August 1. A total of eight ships would resume operations from Miami, Port Canaveral and Galveston. In connection with this plan, the cruise line’s pause in operations would be extended in all other North American and Australian markets through August 31.
In an recent interview with Cruise Critic Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation, talked about how scientific and medical discoveries and advances will dictate any changes and protocols that Carnival Corporation and its nine cruise lines will implement before they start sailing again.
An insightful mistake
Mid-March, when the WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic, all cruise lines took the unseen step of voluntarily suspending global operations. From then onward almost all cruise lines have been cancelling sailings on a month-to-month basis. This approach has been crucial for the cruise lines to (try to) keep up with cancellations, issuing refunds and future cruise credits.
But Carnival’s recent announcement about a return to service on August 1 turned out to be “one of the most insightful mistakes we’ve ever made,” Arnold Donald said.
According to Donald the announcement was more meant to note that additional voyages had been canceled. “It wasn’t a pronouncement that we were going to come back August 1,” he said.
As the scientific world is gathering more and more information about COVID-19, Donald is reluctant to put a specific date on when the cruise lines will resume operations. When asked about the official return date Donald said: “The world is going to tell us.” He continued: “Destinations are going to open when they decide to open. It’s not going to be us telling them. The things that are going to drive that is the citizens’ relative appetite for risk and the extent to which they’ve experience COVID-19. … We’ll just have to see where it goes, but the destinations are going to rule the day.”
According to Donald there should be more clarity in the next six to eight weeks, until then “I don’t know when we’ll sail again,” he said.
The cruise experience post-COVID-19
Over the past few months Carnival Cruise line and its sister brands have been studying different ways in which the cruise experience will have to change.
“When you’re on the ship, if you’re in a cabin, you’re already socially distanced,” Donald said. “So the issue is more the public spaces on the ship and also sufficient capacity to handle if there’s spread that occurred on land that people brought on that is discovered on the ship.”
Some of the possible changes cruisers should expect could include: mandatory room service one night to reduce the number of people needing dining menus in the restaurants and spreading more people from the main dining room to other dining experiences. Show lengths could be reduced and empty seats could be put between couples in the theater.
While many have already said buffets could become a thing of the past, Donald said buffets with crew serving guests – like when ships have norovirus outbreaks – could be a valuable option. One thing that probably will change is the queuing and the lines to make sure guests are socially distancing.
As we learned from feedback from our readers, many cruisers are wondering whether they will be required to wear a mask on board. Talking about the issue Donald replied: “initially whether it’s required or not, some guests will choose to (wear them) on their own.”
What do you think the cruise experience will look like when cruise ships return to the sea? Let us know in the comments below.