By Dee-Ann Durbin
Carnival Cruise Lines said Monday that it plans to gradually resume cruising in North America in August, nearly five months after it halted operations due to the new coronavirus.
Sailings will begin on Aug. 1 with eight ships setting off from Galveston, Texas; Miami; and Port Canaveral, Florida. A majority of customers can easily drive to those ports, the company noted.
Carnival said its operations from other North American and Australian markets will be on hold through Aug. 31. It is also canceling planned sailings from Vancouver to Honolulu on Sept. 25 and Honolulu to Brisbane, Australia, on Oct. 6.
Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines is the largest brand owned by Carnival Corp., which also owns Princess, Holland America Line, and other brands. Carnival Cruise Lines has 27 ships and transported 5 million passengers last year.
The company has taken a huge hit from the new coronavirus, which stranded some ships at sea with sick passengers. Multiple ships reported outbreaks and struggled to find places to dock. In early April, two Holland America cruises disembarked in Florida with at least nine passengers sick with COVID-19.
Carnival Cruise Lines halted new sailings on March 13. It initially expected to be able to sail again on April 10.
Still, parent Carnival Corp. is in strong financial shape. It has raised nearly $6 billion in debt and equity since the crisis began. The company wasn’t eligible for loan assistance from the U.S. government because it is incorporated in Panama.
Carnival Cruise Lines said it is offering future travel credits or refunds to passengers whose cruises are canceled. The company said it will engage government and health experts to ensure that it can safely sail in August.