For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic shut down the cruise industry in March, a cruise ship will leave Mobile with passengers on board.
But there’s a catch with cruises that aren’t vaccinated: you’ll pay $ 150 to get tested before and after the cruises. In addition, onboard youth programs will only be available to vaccinated children and youth aged 12 and over.
The Carnival Sensation, one of the Miami-based company’s four upgraded Fantasy Class ships, will resume operations on October 21 from the Alabama Cruise Terminal in downtown Mobile. The cruise ship’s initial voyage will mark the first time that one of the company’s ships has left Mobile with passengers on board since early March 2020, at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
It will also be the first time the Carnival Sensation has been in Mobile since mid-May, when the cruise ship arrived to vaccinate crew members who were on board.
“We are very excited about our restart and greatly appreciate the support of our customers, travel agents and port and destination partners,” said Christine Duffy, President of Carnival Cruise Line in a press release that announced the company’s plans Monday.
The company announced the restart of three ships in September – the New Orleans Carnival Glory from September 5; the bride of the Baltimore carnival on September 12; and the Carnival Dream in Galveston, Texas on September 19.
In addition to the Carnival Sensation, the company announced additional ships slated to return to cruises in October: the Carnival Conquest in Miami on October 8; the Carnival Freedom in Miami on October 9; and the Carnival Elation in Port Canaveral, Fla. on October 11.
By the end of October, Carnival Cruise Line will have 15 of its 24 ships back into service, and Duffy expects the entire fleet to be operational by the end of 2021.
“Our plan is to successfully bring back our entire fleet by the end of the year, return to full service – especially for the millions of families who sail with us – and rebuild our business to profit. of our customers, employees and the tens of thousands of jobs and local businesses that depend on our business, âshe said.
Carnival and other cruise lines were cleared by the CDC in April to resume shipping in U.S. waters by July as long as 95% of customers and 98% of crew are vaccinated against COVID-19. In Florida, where the cruise industry is a big economic driver, a new state law prohibits companies from requiring customers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Carnival Cruise Line requires unvaccinated passengers departing from Florida and Texas to present proof of travel insurance coverage. There is no such requirement for those who navigate from Mobile.
But there is also no guarantee that unvaccinated cruisers will be allowed to sail. Even though Carnival confirms that it welcomes unvaccinated guests on board – as long as they agree to pre-cruise testing for a fee of $ 150 per person – it is still an application process. The company, in an online statement, has stated that a booking of cruisers is not considered confirmed unless they are given an exemption, which will be issued within 14 days of departure. And any unvaccinated guest whose exemptions are approved will need to review and agree to all restrictions and protocols before boarding the ship.
According to Stewart Chiron, a cruise industry expert nicknamed the “Cruise Guy”, Carnival cannot and will not drop below the 95% threshold for vaccinated passengers on board its cruise ships.
“They will check the vaccinations of all passengers and deny boarding if necessary,” he said.
Duffy, in a statement, said the decision to sail on vaccinated trips “was a difficult one” and that she realizes that it is disappointing for some of the company’s guests “especially the many families with children under 12 who love us to sail and who like to sail with us.
âIt’s important to remember that this is a temporary measure given the current circumstances,â Duffy said. “In consultation with our experts and medical advisors, we have determined that this plan is in the best interests of the health and safety of our guests, our crew and the destinations to which we take our ships.”
She added: âIt is very important that we continue to maintain the trust of our destination partners, so that we can provide our customers with the best cruise experience and follow our routes. “
The global cruise industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with some of the first major epidemics occurring on cruise ships. The blow to the industry has financially affected Carnival and other cruise lines. The industry suffered multibillion dollar losses in 2020, but the industry is hoping for a turnaround in the second half of 2021.
On the Mobile Carnival Cruisers Facebook page, the company’s announcement of a cruise ship’s return to Mobile was greeted with positive feedback. Some commentators have said they are delighted to have trips booked in November and beyond, although some have inquired about the latest vaccination status.
Alabama continues to have one of the worst vaccination rates in the country. Mobile and Baldwin counties have an even lower vaccination rate than the state average, with only about one in three people achieving full vaccination status.
Low vaccination rates were the subject of a recent press conference by public health officials, who warn of rising rates of COVID-19 infections at a time when around 70% of the population is still not vaccinated.
Reservations clients and travel counselors are informed of ship return plans, cruise cancellations, and the process by which passengers are asked to follow to confirm their immunization status and request an exemption from the immunization standard.
Carnival Cruise Line has also announced that any customer who wants to change their plans, or who can’t wait and see if they get an exemption or can’t meet vaccination standards, can change their booking without penalty or request a refund. full.
For any additional questions, guests are encouraged to consult the “Have fun. Be careful” page and FAQ on Carnival.com.