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Carnival Cruises Wants to Start Sailing Again in August. What Could Go Wrong!?

The Carnival Cruise Ship 'Carnival Vista' heads out to sea in the Miami harbor entrance known as Government Cut in Miami, Florida June 2, 2018. (Photo by RHONA WISE / AFP) (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP via Getty Images)

As much as we might hope to the contrary, things are not quite ready to reopen in the U.S., despite many states rushing to do so anyway. The same is true of many industries completely halted by lockdowns. One such industry is cruise lines, which have been hit incredibly hard. It was on cruise ships that the first Americans contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus, or at least where the infection was confirmed. But now the company that owns those ships wants to start sailing again.

Carnival Cruises is the parent company of Princess Cruises. As you may remember, it was aboard the Diamond Princess that many Americans were quarantined and tested positive for the coronavirus before the illness spread to the mainland. Another Princess ship, the Coral Princess, also had an outbreak.

On March 14, the CDC issued a No Sail Order, which prohibited cruise ships from sailing from U.S. ports. That order was extended on April 9th, with an expiration date of July 24th or when the “Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declares that COVID-19 no longer constitutes a public health emergency,” or the “CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other consideration.”

Based on that, Carnival is planning to start sailing cruise ships from U.S. ports on August 1, with eight ships leaving from Galveston, Texas and Fort Lauderdale, Florida. These states are, not coincidentally, two that have been quick to relax coronavirus-related restrictions and social distancing already. Florida is reopening soon, after Texas started to reopen last Friday … and saw a surge in cases.

Despite Carnival’s optimism about an August reopening, there’s no telling how many people will actually want to pay money to potentially be shut inside a plague ship for a week or more. Many businesses want to start … businessing again, but the cost could be huge, and there’s no guarantee the customers will be there.

The CDC, for its part, isn’t really taking a position and issued the following statement regarding when the ships might sail:

We are closely monitoring the situation on cruise ships while we review the cruise lines’ plans to prevent, detect, contain, and respond to COVID-19 during the No Sail period. At this point in time, we do not have enough information to say when it will be safe for cruise ships to resume sailing. CDC will continue to work with cruise lines to ensure all necessary public health procedures are in place when cruise lines do begin regular sailing.

Carnival also is facing a congressional investigation into how it prepared for and handled the pandemic, as well as lawsuits from passengers who became sick with COVID-19 on Princess/Carnival cruises. Further complicating the situation is the overall difficulty of regulating the cruise industry. Most cruise companies are not based in the U.S., and ships are not registered here, either. That and the fact that cruises mainly operate in international waters makes legal, health, and work standards aboard cruises a nightmare in many ways.

The cruise industry makes a lot of money and has loyal customers and a powerful lobby … but many of those loyal customers are those most vulnerable to COVID-19 (retired and elderly people), and the industry’s money is fast depleting as it remains shut down. Will this crisis be the catalyst for change in an industry that has been so hard to reform? We may soon find out.

(via NPR, image: RHONA WISE/AFP via Getty Images)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.