When can I board an ocean cruise ship from Charleston, SC?

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The Carnival Sunshine ship in Grand Cayman in 2013. The cruise line had to put all cruises on hold for much of 2020 and early 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

By the end of the year, Carnival Cruise Line will have relaunched 15 of its cruise ships from seven ports across the United States.

None of them will leave Charleston.

The Carnival Sunshine, the only ship of a major cruise line departing from South Carolina, is not expected to leave Palmetto State until at least 2022. Carnival Cruise Line has repeatedly delayed the ship’s return to the sail, although he left it other ships depart from Florida, Texas, California and Maryland. Carnival Cruise Line has yet to answer questions about why it hasn’t brought back trips from Charleston.

On Monday, Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald spoke at a panel in Miami hosted by Sun News reporter Chase Karacostas on the recovery of the cruise and travel industry in general as the COVID-19 recovery continues and the United States is heading into winter.

“People know that at the end of the day we all come back,” Donald said during the panel. “Now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We know that the distance to this light is shorter. We still don’t know exactly how long this tunnel is.

The cruise industry has been the hardest hit sector of the country’s tourism economy and has been subject to some of the toughest restart rules by government regulators. At the start of the pandemic, cruise ships around the world, many of which are owned by Carnival, were major sources of the spread of COVID-19 and resulted in thousands of people being stranded in ports around the world as their governments d ‘origin struggled to know what to do. do with them.

Donald said he never worried about the recovery of the cruise industry, although the shutdown was particularly difficult. Even when Carnival cut its operating costs as low as possible, it was still losing $ 500 million per month when no ships were operating.

Once cruises could resume, Donald said he believed there would be immediate interest. Many people, he said, were still going to port cities or calling Carnival when much of the world closed in March 2020, hoping their trip had not been canceled. This showed him and his company that once cruises were allowed to return, there would be a large contingent of people looking to book.

“There were a lot of people ready to sail. In fact, when we closed people were upset, ”said Donald. “Demand is strong. Our reservations in the second half of next year are ahead of what they were before COVID. “

Donald’s mindset was shared by much of the tourism industry. This year Myrtle Beach and other vacation destinations have seen unprecedented numbers of travelers arrive at their doorstep, many of them fed up with being stuck at home for the year and benefiting from the government stimulus money.

One of the biggest hurdles in returning to cruising has been how to deal with COVID-19. All cruise ships now have onboard testing and the ability to temporarily quarantine passengers and crew. Donald said the cruise industry’s experience with past epidemics and pandemics such as Zika and Ebola has prepared them for what they need to do today.

“I could not be more proud of our employees for their dedication, commitment and high level execution in an ever changing environment,” said Donald. “Every week the rules change. We get hundreds of thousands of calls a day because the rules keep changing all over the world, and people have to adapt to deal with it.

Major cruise lines didn’t start leaving U.S. ports until mid-summer, and in most cases they have to meet extremely high vaccination standards – over 95% – for passengers and l ‘crew. While the delta variant of the coronavirus “reared its ugly head,” Carnival also instituted a requirement that even vaccinated passengers must be tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure.

Unvaccinated passengers are allowed to sail, but may need a doctor’s note explaining why they cannot be vaccinated. Many unvaccinated passengers also need to purchase travel insurance in case they become infected and need to be transported home. Travel insurance rates can vary, but typically cost hundreds of dollars. Unvaccinated guests are also not allowed to go ashore on their own when the ship docks during a voyage. They are permitted to conduct limited “bubble tours” ashore which may sell out and do not allow unscheduled trips to gift shops, restaurants, etc.

While the restaurant and airline industries, for example, have seen setbacks and even cases of violence when it comes to COVID-19 mitigation measures such as vaccination warrants and the wearing of masks, Donald said he doesn’t worry about it on cruises. Cruise ships often have more rules than most other types of travel to keep everyone safe.

“Of course, when you sell to so many people you always have a few outliers, but they mostly get it. They are used to on a cruise ship going to places where the rules are different for everything, ”said Donald.

One of the biggest changes Donald wants to see regarding travel and COVID-19 is better coordination between the federal government and local and state governments, as well as coordination between governments internationally. However, this is a difficult question. For example, in Florida, where many Carnival ships are based, Governor Ron DeSantis has made it harder to enforce COVID-19 restrictions and led the charge against some of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s rules for the cruise industry. to recover.

In South Carolina, local and state officials have also often opposed vaccination warrants.

In light of the contention between states and the federal government over COVID policy, Donald said it must be easier for individuals to follow protocols, such as having an app that shows them local rules to track as well as store their vaccine card.

“We have to focus on the individual,” Donald said. “When we say, ‘Oh, if this is this country, then we will not take the people of this country’ – the point is that people are vaccinated or have been tested … they are as safe as n ‘any other individual who has been vaccinated or tested.

As for the return of the cruise industry to South Carolina, Charleston’s Carnival Sunshine is one of five ships in Carnival’s fleet that still does not have a specific date for its return to the high seas.

“We are making slight adjustments to our schedule to take into account supply chain realities and ensure that our destination and shore excursion offerings can meet the high demand we see from our customers,” said Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy said in a press release. month. “Our teams, on board and ashore, are ready to continue to provide our excellent customer experience and manage all health and safety protocols.”

Chase Karacostas writes about tourism in Myrtle Beach and across South Carolina for McClatchy. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in 2020 with degrees in journalism and political communication. He started working for McClatchy in 2020 after growing up in Texas, where he has signatures in three of the state’s largest print media as well as the Texas Tribune covering state policy, environment, housing. and the LGBTQ + community.


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