Carnival to restart operations from three U.S. ports

The Carnival Dream will sail from Galveston starting Aug. 1.
The Carnival Dream will sail from Galveston starting Aug. 1.

Carnival Cruise Line plans to resume service on Aug. 1 with sailings from Miami, Port Canaveral and Galveston on eight ships.

Carnival is calling it the first phase of its resumption plan. The cruise line’s operations pause will extend in all other North American and Australian markets through Aug. 31.

The cruise line said that any resumption of cruise operations “is fully dependent on our continued efforts in cooperation with federal, state, local and international government officials.”

Carnival has not provided itinerary details, but plans to launch the Carnival Dream, Carnival Freedom and Carnival Vista from Galveston; the Carnival Horizon, Carnival Magic and Carnival Sensation from Miami; and Carnival Breeze and Carnival Elation from Port Canaveral.

Carnival Vista | The Carnival Vista in the main canal at the… | Flickr

Carnival said it would “engage experts, government officials and stakeholders on additional protocols and procedures to protect the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we serve. We appreciate the understanding and support of our guests and travel agent partners and look forward to welcoming them on board as the environment for travel and tourism improves.”

The line also announced additional cancellations beyond Aug. 31 on the Carnival Spirit, which cancelled its Alaska cruises from Seattle as well as its Vancouver-Honolulu cruise on Sept. 25 and Honolulu-Brisbane transpacific cruise on Oct. 6.

Steady Growth for Carnival in Galveston

Carnival Vista in Galveston

The Carnival Radiance and Breeze will join the Vista and Dream sailing from Galveston year-round in May 2021, Carnival Cruise Line announced today.

“We’ve been undergoing steady growth in Galveston since we started sailing there in 2000 with one ship,” said Fred Stein senior director of revenue planning and fleet development, Carnival Cruise Line.

The line went to three ships out of Galveston in 2015, with the Vista taking the place of the Breeze recently and adding more berths to the market.

“The next level of growth is adding a fourth ship,” Stein continued.

The four ships will mean Carnival is posting a 25 per cent increase in berths out of Galveston, according to Cruise Industry News data, with over 13,000 berths based in the Texas port in 2021.

Demand comes via 37 million people within a 500-mile drive, according to Stein, and many who fly in from the West Coast to Houston.

Fred Stein

The Radiance, which will be converted from the Carnival Victory after a $200 million drydock next year, is moving to Galveston from Port Canaveral, while the Breeze comes over from Port Everglades for her Texas return.

The Freedom will be redeployed elsewhere, with an announcement expected soon.

All told, Carnival could carry nearly one million guests from Galveston on 235 itineraries in 2021, ranging from five to 14 days.

Stein said the port’s infrastructure can handle the four ships, and parking capacity was more than sufficient. 

The Radiance will concentrate on mainly five-day cruises, but three new nine-day options are available that depart on Fridays. Stein said these voyages were ideal as they offered a nine-day vacation, but for the most guest, only a week off work.

One nine-day option will call at Cozumel, Limon (Costa Rica), and feature a partial Panama Canal transit or a visit to Colon (Panama), while another features Key West, Grand Turk, Half Moon Cay and Nassau. The third voyage calls at Grand Cayman, Mahogany Bay (Isla Roatan), Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel.

“This is the most differentiated content we have been able to offer from Galveston,” Stein told Cruise Industry News. 

The company is also offering two 14-day Carnival Journeys sailings, featuring eight ports each. 

“Those offer a lot of differentiated port content you wouldn’t get on a short cruise,” Stein said.

The Carnival Breeze will move into the short cruise rotation, sailing year-round four- and five-day itineraries.

“The Breeze has been in Galveston for quite a while,” Stein said. “She is very popular in Texas and will take on the four- and five-day cruises that the Dream is doing.”

Four-day “weekend” cruises leave on Thursdays and call in Cozumel while five-day cruises depart on Mondays and Saturdays with calls at Cozumel and either Progreso or Costa Maya. 

The Dream will move to a new six- and eight-day cruise schedule in May 2021 while the Vista will sail week-long cruises on two separate Western Caribbean itineraries.

Carnival plans to carry its 8 millionth guest from Galveston in early 2021.

2000 to 2020

Carnival started year-round cruising out of Galveston in 2000 with the Carnival Celebration, which was based in the port and offered four- and five-day Western Caribbean sailings at the time.

Double Carnival Call in Galveston

At the time, the Miami-based brand was the first major cruise line to base a ship year-round out of Galveston. Carnival made a five-year deal in 2000 and in return, the port invested in renovating its passenger terminal and building a parking facility for 1,100 cars.

It’s been all growth then, with the Jubilee joining the Celebration in 2002. 

The ships got bigger over time, and two ships became three in 2015, with 2021 set to see four ships sailing year-round for Carnival from Galveston.

Cruise Lines Could Face Major Drydock Challenge Following Hurricane Damage

Grand Bahama Shipyard

The cruise industry could be looking at a monumental impact to their operations following Hurricane Dorian if the Grand Bahama Shipyard’s capacity is taken offline or further limited following an April incident.

The go-to-yard for drydocks and refurbishments in the cruise industry is partly owned by both Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises.

It is ideally located in the Bahamas, meaning little out-of-service transit time on the way to or from various deployment regions, including the Caribbean in the winter.

The yard is regularly used by cruise vessels from almost all cruise lines for mandatory class drydocking and refurbishment work.

There are few alternatives for big vessels in the region. Shipyards in Newport News, Virginia, and Mobile, Alabama, both have facilities that can handle larger vessels but are generally used for naval purposes and are known to be well booked ahead of time.

Deytens, located in South Carolina, has also played host to the expedition and luxury ships and mid-sized vessels over the years.

Costs at U.S.-based facilities are also higher, and there are challenges in bringing in skilled labour and large amounts of the hotel and marine supplies from foreign countries that are needed for large scale refurbishments, which often see spending of up to $3 million per day in supplies and labour.

With reported widespread damage in Freeport, operations to the yard could be impacted. Housing both permanent and temporary workers could prove challenging unless accommodation vessels are brought in.

Another expensive option could be the Boka Vanguard, a semi-submersible heavy transport vessel operated by Netherlands-based Boskalis, which helped provide a platform for emergency repairs to the Carnival Vista earlier this year.

In Curacao, Damen Shipyards offers a drydock option and has plenty of cruise experience.

Cruise lines could also choose to wet-dock their vessels at industrial piers just about anywhere. The upside being the vessel would be empty and available for hotel refit. Crane access could be limited making logistics of getting supplies off and on the ship challenging.

However, classification societies require ships to come out of the water at regular intervals for inspection.

The most likely option, however, is the regular drydock facilities in Europe. The question is whether they have available space when needed, and the impact of moving ships that were scheduled to drydock in the Bahamas to Europe, mixing up some itineraries and deployment.

Cancelling a scheduled drydocking for the third or fourth quarter of 2019 or early 2020 and replacing it with a normal sailing would also pose challenges with a short booking window.