Carnival Cruise Line has some long-awaited news for its avid fans: The cruise line hopes to resume operations in November and December after a long industrywide hiatus, now in its seventh full month, expires on Oct. 31.
For tourism-dependent businesses in Broward County, the news isn’t so good. The cruise line omitted Port Everglades from the very short list — just two Florida ports — that will host its initial resumed voyages.
Sailings from Port Everglades will remain on hiatus until further notice, a Carnival Cruise Line spokesman said.
But Carnival Cruise Line’s departure doesn’t necessarily mean that Port Everglades will remain empty for the rest of the year. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises are still scheduled to resume sailing from the port in early November, while Holland America and Princess Cruises are accepting bookings for voyages that leave the port in late December.
In a news release Thursday, Carnival said it has designated only PortMiami and Port Canaveral in Brevard County as homeports for departing cruises if the company can resume sailings this year. Scheduled Carnival cruises from all other U.S. ports during November and December have been canceled, the company said.
Carnival stressed in its release that sailings this year “are still not certain" as the company “continues to work on protocols and procedures that would allow for the resumption of cruise operations with a gradual, phased-in approach.”
Currently scheduled cruises from PortMiami and Port Canaveral “will remain in place for the time being while Carnival evaluates options,” the release said.
Port Canaveral is home to Carnival ships Breeze, Elation and Liberty. PortMiami is home to Sunrise, Conquest and Horizon. Carnival’s website currently shows no available bookings on trips from either port until late December, but that’s because trips scheduled in November and early December are sold out, spokesman Vance Gulliksen said by email.
Carnival’s decision to omit Port Everglades — the third busiest cruise port in the world — did not originate with its resumption plan, Gulliksen said
The company decided back in July that it would not depart from Port Everglades if cruises resumed in 2020, Gulliksen said. Originally, its soon-to-be revamped ship Carnival Radiance was to have begun sailing from Port Canaveral this November, while Carnival Breeze was slated to continue departing from Port Everglades.
After restoration of the Radiance (formerly Carnival Victory) was delayed by the pandemic, Carnival decided to shift the Breeze to Port Canaveral. That left Port Everglades without a Carnival Cruise Line ship. The company also decided to locate the Radiance at the Port of Long Beach (California) when its restoration is complete next April.
“Right now Port Everglades is not in our immediate plans, and we will notify our guests and travel agent partners if this changes,” Gulliksen said. “We normally just operate one to two ships from Port Everglades as most of our South Florida tonnage is at PortMiami.”
Stacy Ritter, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, the region’s public-private tourism marketing arm, said the region will be ready when Carnival Cruise Line decides to return.
“The cruise industry is important to us, and we’re here to support each of the cruise lines, including Carnival, when they are ready to return to Port Everglades,” Ritter said in a prepared statement. “In light of the changes in the entire travel industry, we are highly flexible with all of our promotional messaging for both travel advisors and consumers.”
Retailers and restaurants near the cruise port are also ready for cruise business to return.
“Without question,” said Lenore Gilbert, owner of Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill in the Harbor Shops plaza. “I do need the port open, definitely. Once the port opens, then the hotels will get full.” Her restaurant, open for lunch and dinner from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., attracts patrons who book local hotels before their cruises but don’t want to eat only at their hotel’s restaurant, she said. “I’d estimate over 25% of my business comes from the cruises.”
As for other cruise lines that operate out of Port Everglades, bookings for voyages aboard Royal Caribbean and its sister line Celebrity Cruises in November and December remain available through their own websites as well as third-party travel booking sites, beginning with two 11-night trips scheduled to depart Nov. 2. But a Royal Caribbean spokesman was not able to verify which of those trips will actually take place.
Carnival-owned Princess Cruises plans to resume sailing from the port with three departures on Dec. 19 and 10 more through the end of the year, spokeswoman Negin Kamali said.
Holland America is also scheduled to resume trips from the port beginning with four departures on Dec. 19 and 12 more before Dec. 31.
The cruise industry has gotten used to uncertainty since the pandemic began last spring.
After initially canceling voyages for six weeks beginning in mid-March, cruise lines continued to accept bookings for trips beyond that initial suspension period, only to cancel them as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention repeatedly extended its “no sail" order for U.S.-based ships. The CDC’s most recent extension is set to expire on Oct. 31, and cruise lines are confident it won’t be extended again.
All major cruise lines suspended operations worldwide in mid-March following COVID-19 outbreaks aboard several ships. Ships with infected passengers faced difficulty finding ports that would allow them to debark their passengers, including a Holland America ship, the Zaandam, that was forced to wander at sea while authorities spent several days determining whether to allow its 233 infected passengers and crew to come ashore at Port Everglades.
Cruise lines have been lobbying the CDC for weeks to allow operations to resume this year. On Tuesday, CDC Director Robert Redfield’s recommendation to extend the agency’s no-sail order through February was overruled by Vice President Mike Pence during a meeting at the White House, according to multiple news sources. On Friday, the CDC’s website was still recommending that travelers “defer all cruise travel worldwide.”
Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said that November might be too soon for cruising to resume from Port Everglades.
“Port Everglades is an important part of our economy, and we look forward to Carnival resuming out of of our port," he said. "At the same time, I’m concerned about the safety of cruising, and any delay, as far as we’re concerned, is a step closer to ensuring that vacationing on cruise ships will be that much safer and therefore more enjoyable.”