Find out what’s been going on across the major cruise lines in this week’s cruise news update. Major develops in relation to the CDC as cruise lines decide to follow the updated voluntary program, along with cancellations ship deployments, and a shiny new Miami cruise terminal.
Cruise News Update
It’s time to make sure you’re up to date on all the latest developments from the week across the major cruise lines. It has been a busy week of updates in relation to the CDC with cruise lines surprisingly opting into its voluntary program despite harsh words from the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) earlier in the month.
There is a shiny new cruise terminal across from the Miami skyline, a lowered travel notice for cruise ships by the CDC, cruise cancellations for Royal Caribbean’s Mariner of the Seas, and lots of updates from Carnival with deployment changes and its sailabrations.
Virgin Voyages Opens Miami Terminal
Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages celebrated the opening of Terminal V at PortMiami on February 13. After only one year since breaking ground, the new Terminal received its first guests to board Virgin Voyages’ first cruise ship, Scarlet Lady.
Sir Richard Branson and others attended the event and performed the ceremonial ribbon cutting.
The new terminal offers guests unobstructed views of Biscayne Bay, downtown Miami, and Edgewater. The facility is located just off the side of the main terminal row that caters to all the major cruise lines.
Measuring 132,000 square feet, the structure features striking design details and significant environmental features, ensuring the building received the LEED Gold Certification. The geometric design has been inspired by the palm trees synonymous with Miami. While during the day the palm trees are the main focus, during the evening, the company’s famous logo will mirror the city’s skyline.
Scarlet Lady sailed on a 5-day cruise to the Western Caribbean and the Bahamas from Terminal V this week, the first time a cruise ship officially sailed from the new Terminal. She will be calling the new Terminal V home year-round, sailing on four different Caribbean voyages.
CDC Lowers Cruise Travel Warning
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lowered the COVID-19 warning for cruise travel on February 15, 2022, dropping from the Level 4 “Very High” to Level 3 “High” indicating gaining confidence in the cruise industry’s health and safety protocols.
By dropping the cruise travel warning from Level 4 down to Level 3, the CDC is acknowledging a slight lessening of risk aboard cruise ships, which is in line with the dropping caseloads of COVID-19 worldwide. Under the previous warning, Level 4, travelers were advised to avoid cruise ship travel entirely.
Now, under Level 3, passengers are advised to be up-to-date on vaccinations before cruising, which means both the original full vaccination series as well as a booster shot if eligible.
This easing of the travel warning comes as many cruise lines are beginning to carefully relax onboard mandates, such as permitting vaccinated guests to go without masks indoors and allowing smoking to resume in ships’ casinos.
Mariner of the Seas Cancellations
In an email sent to travel partners, Royal Caribbean International has announced that nearly three months of sailings in early 2023 will be canceled for Mariner of the Seas, in order to allow extended time for a planned drydock and renovation.
According to a February 16, 2022 email to guests from Royal Caribbean, the canceled sailings extend from January 7 through March 27, 2023.
The affected voyages include 3- and 4-night Bahamas and Perfect Day cruises that would have called on Nassau and Royal Caribbean’s private island, CocoCay; 4- and 5-night Western Caribbean sailings just to Mexico, and 4-night Western Caribbean and Perfect Day itineraries visiting Cozumel and CocoCay. All cruises were departing from Port Canaveral.
Guests on the now canceled sailings have three options to choose from. Guests can choose to rebook their cruise on one of selected sailings aboard the significantly smaller, Radiance-class Jewel of the Seas with various incentives, there is the option to rebook on any other Royal Caribbean cruise with change fees waived but without incentives, or request a full refund if they prefer not to rebook.
Carnival Cruise Line was founded in 1972, making 2022 the line’s 50th birthday. Carnival is celebrating this momentous milestone in true Fun Ship style, with amazing parties and events on board each of its ships, starting with birthday-themed “sailabration” cruises.
There are 17 designated Sailabration cruises. Carnival Miracle will be the first Sailabration cruise to set sail when it leaves Long Beach on Sunday, February 20 on a 14-day Carnival Journeys cruise to Hawaii. Most other Sailabrations depart the week of March 5, and range from 3-8 nights depending on the ship, embarkation port, and itinerary.
The birthday celebration begins even before guests are on board. Carnival’s cruise terminals will be decorated as birthday parties with fun music, signage, and décor to get the party started from the moment passengers arrive for their cruises.
Sailabrations will allow guests to not only celebrate on board but have also been carefully coordinated to celebrate with other Carnival ships. Ships throughout the fleet will “meet” to host the biggest birthday parties at sea as they share destinations. The meetups will happen on designated dates during the weeklong event:
- March 5: Carnival Radiance and Carnival Miracle (Baja, Mexico, outside Ensenada)
- March 7: Carnival Breeze, Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Glory, Mardi Gras, Carnival Pride, Carnival Sunrise, and Carnival Vista (Western Caribbean, between Cozumel and Costa Maya)
- March 9: Carnival Conquest, Carnival Spirit, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Legend, Carnival Liberty, and Carnival Sunshine (The Bahamas, between Eleuthera and Nassau)
- March 11: Carnival Miracle and Carnival Panorama (Baja, Mexico, outside Ensenada)
Serving as the culmination to the year-long festivities for the line’s birthday, the biggest celebration of all will be when the newest Carnival ship is officially welcomed to the fleet.
Carnival Celebration will be named in PortMiami in late November as she arrives to her new homeport. Her first sailing from Miami is a 6-day Eastern Caribbean sailing departing November 21, 2022, and calling on Grand Turk, Amber Cove, and Nassau, with two days at sea.
Carnival Deployment Changes
Carnival Cruise Line has announced the final phase of its operational restart, with several homeport changes, ship redeployments, and the last of the vessels to restart.
By March 2022, the cruise line will have restarted sailings in all 10 of its year-round US homeports, and when the Alaska cruise season opens in May, all of Carnival’s fleet will be back to service, bringing Fun Ship getaways to eager passengers.
With the two Fantasy-class vessels, Carnival Sensation and Carnival Ecstasy, leaving the fleet, several ship redeployments have been necessary to cover popular homeports and itineraries in the coming weeks and months.
Carnival Elation will move from Port Canaveral to Jacksonville, Florida, effective April 23 to October 22.
Carnival Freedom will move from Miami to Port Canaveral to pick up the itineraries formerly assigned to Carnival Elation, effective April 21 through October 15. This includes 4-day sailings to the Bahamas, with calls in Nassau and Princess Cays, plus 5-day Eastern Caribbean cruises, with calls in Amber Cove and Grand Turk.
Carnival Spirit, which is currently sailing from Jacksonville with 4- and 5-day Bahamas itineraries, will take over several sailings previously assigned to Carnival Freedom beginning in April, including the April 17, 2022 16-day Carnival Journeys cruise from Miami through the Panama Canal to Seattle.
Carnival Splendor will also reposition to Seattle and operate Alaska sailings currently assigned to Carnival Freedom. This is due to the ship’s Australia sailings being canceled for the time being as the Australian government continues to refine plans for regional sailings to restart. Those cancellations were announced earlier this month, but it was not known at the time where Carnival Splendor would be calling home.
Cruise Lines Opt Into CDC Voluntary Program
Major cruise lines decide to opt into the CDC’s voluntary program for cruise ships, which means cruise ships operating in U.S. waters will have to follow CDC guidelines. The agency gave cruise lines a deadline of February 18 to decide if they would opt-in or not. Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Royal Caribbean and more confirmed that they would participate in the program.
Ships will also continue to be a part of the Cruise Ship Color Status page, classifying vessels depending on the vaccinated status of sailings. Royal Caribbean President and CEO, Michael Bayley has said that it will operate under the Highly Vaccinated category beginning with sailings departing from the U.S. as of Friday, February 25.
Carnival Cruise Line also updated its protocols that are in line with the CDC guidelines. The cruise line is dropping its face mask requirement for sailings departing from March 1, 2022. However, the cruise line still strongly recommends guests wear a mask. Also, some specific venues and events may require passengers to wear a mask.
Vaccinated cruises will continue for the foreseeable future, but children under five years old will not be included in any vaccinated guest calculation. This means that those kids will not be required to receive an exemption to sail.
Pre-cruise testing is also to become less hassle for many guests. On sailings from March 1, 2022, guests that are fully updated with their vaccines, such as receiving their booster shot, can take a pre-cruise test within three days before sailing rather than the previous two days.
Despite the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) recently calling the new CDC COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships “potentially unworkable in practice,” it now seems that major cruise lines are remaining committed to the agency to make sure guests and crew continue to remain safe.
More Cruise Headlines
It has just been another busy week in the cruise industry and there are even more major cruise news stories, including the former Carnival Fascination being beached in Pakistan for scrapping, Carnival Sensation set to be scrapped in Turkey, new details revealed for Disney Wish, Royal Caribbean unveils four new production shows for Wonder of the Seas, The Celebrity Ascent to sail the Caribbean during the 2023-24 season, Celebrity Cruises extends its pre-cruise testing and loads more headlines.