‘Every reason to be optimistic’: Carnival Corp. CEO expects to resume US sailing before year end

Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Corp., expects that the company’s cruise lines will be sailing by the end of the year in U.S. waters after a more-than-seven-month pause in operations.

“At this time we have every reason to be optimistic that we will be sailing in the U.S. before year end,” Donald said on an earnings call Thursday. He added later that because of the success of initial sailings in Europe, the company believes it has a “way to go forward” amid the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to impact countries worldwide, including the United States which has seen more than 210,000 people die from the disease.

Carnival Corp. lines, which is parent to Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America, Princess Cruises, P&O Cruises, among others, are taking a staggered approach to resuming operations as previously promised by the cruise company. One has already resumed operations: Costa Cruises, which resumed sailing two of its ships in Italy, made its first comeback voyage on Sept. 6. A second, AIDA Cruises is scheduled to follow suit in Italy beginning Oct. 17.

Costa Cruises has not seen a single case of COVID-19 on board its ships in the more than a month-long period that it has been sailing, Roger Frizzell, spokesperson for Carnival Corp., told USA TODAY Thursday.

“Our company is uniquely positioned for phased resumption given multiple national brands, which can each be restarted independently,” Donald said.  

The restart of Costa has proven valuable as other Carnival Corp. lines plan for their return to U.S. waters: “We plan to leverage the experience and learnings from both Costa Cruises and AIDA, as well as ongoing input from our science and medical experts as part of the process,” Frizzell told USA TODAY.

For instance, AIDA will adapt Costa’s new dining room plans, converting self-service dining areas to full-service restaurants. Costa’s contactless process allows passengers to choose a table and review their food choices on a menu that is conveniently available on their mobile device using a QR code. Then, a waiter wearing a face mask takes their order and delivers it to the table.

When will Carnival cruise ships return to the US?

While both the CDC’s “no-sail” order and Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) voluntary suspension are scheduled to end on Oct. 31, two of Carnival’s Corp’s biggest lines have canceled cruises beyond that date.

Last week, its flagship Carnival canceled all remaining 2020 cruises except those departing out of its home ports in Miami and Port Canaveral, Florida – and acknowledged those might not even happen. Meanwhile, Princess has extended its operational pause through Dec. 15.

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