President Donald J. Trump said that Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison told him that Carnival’s cruise ships will be available if the government should need them amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“I spoke with Micky Arison of Carnival Cruise Lines and he is going to make ships available,” Trump said, in a White House press conference on Thursday. “So in addition to the big medical ships you have coming, if we should need ships with lots of rooms, they will be docked in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, different places.”
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is no stranger to chartering cruise ships for temporary housing, having done so following Hurricane Katrina, and hurricanes in 2017. Both times FEMA worked with Carnival.
Cruise ships could supply temporary housing for a quarantine facility, or serve as housing for medical or government workers, or in some cases, have been suggested as sites for surge hospital capacity.
Ships also provide a secure environment. Authorities would know who is on the ship at any time, and can restrict access and movements relatively easily, compared to a land-based site.
Carnival Corporation owns nine brands with approximately 105 ships across its fleet.
Cruise lines have responded to a wave of travel and entry restrictions from countries across southeast Asia by cancelling and changing itineraries amid the coronavirus outbreak. Harry Kemble rounds up all the latest developments.
Celebrity Cruises has cancelled the final five sailings of Celebrity Millennium’s Asia season and will reposition the ship to the US earlier than planned.
Passengers affected will receive a full refund.
The line has also adjusted the next four Celebrity Constellation itineraries to avoid Singapore and Thailand.
Constellation will instead spend more time in Cochin, Goa and Mumbai.
Princess Cruises has pulled every departure on Diamond Princess, which is currently quarantined in Yokohama, Japan, until March 12.
The sailings were due to call at ports across Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam which all have travel and entry restrictions in place.
Each passenger for the February 13 voyage will receive a refund and 100% future cruise credit equal to the cruise fare paid for the voyage. Passengers booked on the February 23 voyage and beyond will receive a refund and 50% cruise credit.
Holland America Line (HAL) ship Westerdam was allowed to dock in Cambodia on Thursday after Japan, Taiwan, Guam, the Philippines and Thailand had all refused to accept the ship – despite having no sick passengers or crew on board.
Westerdam finally arrives in Cambodia after 5 ports refused entry.
Guests will transfer via charter flights to Phnom Penh for forwarding travel home. All flights will be paid for by the line along with a full cruise refund and 100% future cruise credit.
Future Westerdam voyage plans are still being finalised. The February 15 cruise scheduled to embark in Yokohama has been cancelled.
No cancellations for cruises with departure dates beyond February 15 have been announced.
“However, we are assessing the impact of current port restrictions in Asia on cruises departing Feb. 29 or later,” the line said in a statement. “We will communicate details as they become finalized in the next few days.”
Royal Caribbean International has cancelled two Quantum of the Seas sailings departing from Singapore on February 15 and February 24.
Affected passengers have been given full refunds, the line said.
Quantum of the Seas.
A Royal spokesperson added: “Royal Caribbean’s number one priority is ensuring the health and welfare of our guests and crew.
“We will continue to monitor conditions and will share other itinerary adjustments should they become necessary.
“The Singapore market remains of great importance to us and we look forward to returning there very soon.”
Royal Caribbean Cruises has lifted its ban on passport holders from China, Hong Kong and Macau after adopting the controversial policy last week.
A statement from Royal Caribbean Cruises, parent of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea confirmed the reversal on Tuesday.
Every passenger who has travelled from, to or through mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau 15 days prior to the departure date is still banned from boarding any of Royal’s vessels.
Norwegian Cruise Line has pulled its entire Asia programme for the newly refurbished ship, Norwegian Spirit.
All sailings between 15 and December 7 have been dropped and full refunds are being offered, along with 10% future cruise credit.
P&O Cruises is removing calls into Shanghai on March 5-6 and Hong Kong on March 9-10 as part of Arcadia’s world cruise and will announce alternative ports “as soon as possible”.
The UK line said: “We are very closely monitoring and assessing the impact of the latest developments and health advisories, as well as various travel and entry restrictions which are increasingly impacting ship itineraries and connecting travel.
“We are actively seeking to mitigate these risks to our guests and crew, and are making appropriate adjustments to our operations to protect all onboard our ships.”
Cunard ship Queen Mary 2 is to miss several ports in southeast Asia and will sail direct to Fremantle, Australia, during its world cruise.
The vessel had been scheduled to call into Phuket, Thailand; Pulau Penang Island and Klang in Malaysia; Singapore; and Hong Kong.
Cunard said the “various travel and entry restrictions…are increasingly impacting ship itineraries and connecting travel” across the world.
The Mardi Gras, the first Carnival Cruise Line ship to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), joins ships from two other Carnival Corp. brands that also feature LNG propulsion and weren’t delivered on time.
The shipyards involved have blamed the delays on design complexity, troubles with coordinating subcontractors and the size of the ships, which are each intended to carry more than 5,200 passengers.
In each case, the ships are the first in a new class of vessel for their respective lines. All are built on a common platform introduced by Carnival in 2015 and referred to as the Excellence class.
The platform was adapted for the individual needs of Carnival as well as for Carnival Corp.’s two European brands, Costa Cruises and Aida Cruises.
For North Americans, the Mardi Gras will be the first ship to feature the LNG engines, a big technological leap that promises environmental gains and cheaper operating costs, especially with new restrictions on heavy sulfur fuels that start this year.
But going first has never been a formula for smooth sailing in the cruise industry. New technologies frequently have unforeseen problems that need to be ironed out as they move from the drawing board to actual use.
Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald alluded to that legacy when asked about the delay in a conference call in December.
“The situation is that historically we’ve had occasional delays with prototypes,” Donald said. “But we’re working with the yard and are in the process of negotiating what we need to do to ensure that future delivery is on time.”
That’s not much consolation for passengers on eight Mardi Gras sailings that were cancelled because of the delay.
Those sailings included a debut cruise in Europe, a transatlantic crossing, a New York preview cruise and the first four sailings from the Mardi Gras’ year-round homeport, Port Canaveral in Florida.
More than 40,000 guests have been notified that their plans have been changed. They will get a full refund and a 25% future cruise credit for their troubles as well as assistance with nonrefundable airline and hotel reservations already booked.
Travel agents who sold the cruises will still receive the commissions they earned, Carnival said.
The first sailing, which had been set for Aug. 31, has now been rescheduled for Nov. 14.
Ben Clement, Carnival’s senior vice president of newbuilds, said that despite working closely with shipyard executives to keep the giant ship on schedule, prudence dictated that it be delayed to get it right.
“While we deeply regret disappointing our guests, this change in the delivery date is required to make sure all of the ship’s systems, features and technology will be fully operational so that we can give our guests the vacation they expect,” Clement said.
Carnival will get some compensation from the shipyard, Donald said, but it will be reflected in the ship’s value on the balance sheet, not on the profit and loss statement, so the loss of the eight cruises in 2020 will likely impact earnings.
Clement didn’t go into detail about what issues are making the ship late. But in the previous cases involving Aida and Costa, the shipyards issued statements.
In October 2018, the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany said that it would push back delivery of the AidaNova from Nov. 15 to Dec. 2. It was eventually delivered to Aida on Dec. 19.
AidaNova was the first cruise ship to be powered by LNG, and Meyer Werft said it “required more time for commissioning and testing of this prototype.”
Another LNG ship built to the Excellence platform is the Costa Smeralda, which was launched Dec. 20 after being delayed twice. The the shipyard, a Meyer Werft-owned facility in Turku, Finland, cited “the high complexity and the sheer size of the ship project” and noted that it was the the first ship in the class to be built at the Turku yard.
The Carnival Mardi Gras is also being built in Turku.
Using LNG for power instead of diesel requires special pressurized steel tanks to keep the gas in its liquid state. For safety reasons, the tanks must be surrounded by void space, requiring about twice as much room inside the ship as tanks for diesel fuel.
The Mardi Gras is being fitted with three steel LNG tanks and four Caterpillar engines. Carnival officials have said that integrating the tanks, piping and bunkering is the biggest challenge in designing LNG ships.
One reason Carnival and other lines are switching to LNG, despite its complexities, is that natural gas is cheaper than oil. Perhaps more importantly, burning it produces little or no sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide, two health-damaging gases in petroleum exhaust.
By some estimates, natural gas also generates about 15% less carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas implicated in climate change.
Of the first four LNG-powered ships ordered by Carnival, only the P&O Cruises ship Iona, due in May 2020, has not suffered a delivery delay.
In addition to its novel powertrain, the Mardi Gras has several other features not attempted before on Carnival ships.
The most prominent is an electric roller coaster that loops around the funnel and most of the upper deck of the ship. Called the Bolt, it is being built by Munich-based Maurer Rides and will require extensive testing for issues of vibration, noise and safety, Carnival has said.
The Mardi Gras is also pioneering an atrium that looks out to see from the side of the ship through a glass wall that spans three stories; a report in the Wall Street Journal noted novel structural problems for supporting that area, which would typically be framed in steel.