Carnival Cruise Line will keep its ships locked down through May 11, extending a 30-day suspension put in place earlier this month by President Donald Trump amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.
The company made the announcement Monday, shelving its initial plan to resume cruises in early April.
In a statement on Twitter, Carnival Cruise Line said, “As COVID-19 continues to impact global health and our commerce, we are sorry to extend our pause in our operations until May 11.”
The statement noted that anyone sailing after May 11 is not expected to be affected.
“We are working with our guests to address this disruption to their vacation plans and extend our apologies,” the statement says.
Other news reports say Carnival's Cunard line also extended its suspension from April 11 until May 15.
Stocks of all the big three cruise lines that operate in America plunged last week on news that they had been left out of the monumental $2 trillion economic stimulus signed by President Donald Trump on Friday.
The legislation states a company must be “created or organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States” and “have significant operations in and a majority of its employees based in the United States” to be eligible for relief funds.
All three cruise lines are shut out from $500 billion in emergency funds specifically meant for distressed businesses affected by the outbreak, because they are all incorporated outside America, meaning they pay little if any federal taxes.
The cruise lines are all incorporated in countries with more lenient tax, labor and safety laws.
Royal Caribbean is incorporated in Liberia; Norwegian Cruises is incorporated in Bermuda. Carnival is incorporated in Panama but maintains a U.S. headquarters in Miami, according to CNBC.
The companies, which pay state income taxes and port fees, can apply for loans or guarantees from the fund being overseen by the Treasury Department, but for now there appear to be no guarantees for that.
Cruise Lines International Association, a cruise industry trade group, said in a statement last week that more than 421,000 U.S. jobs “are supported by the cruise industry” and that it expected its 30,000 travel agent members to receive some relief from the package.
Although the cruise lines won’t get help from the bill signed Friday, their U.S.-based employees who lose their jobs could be eligible for expanded unemployment benefits of $600 a week on top of state benefits through July 31, and an extra 13 weeks of state benefits, according to The Associated Press. They could also be in line for the bill’s stimulus payments of up to $1,200 per adult.
American-owned cruise ship companies and owners of smaller passenger vessels and port facilities are expected to qualify for the assistance, AP reported.
Trump was reportedly in discussions Monday about a bailout for Carnival, according to an account by S&P Global Market Intelligence reporter Donna Young.
The cruise lines could still get a lifeline from taxpayers. Lawmakers could reconsider aid if it looks like the industry is in serious jeopardy of going under.
A Senate Republican aide familiar with the negotiations said Democratic senators balked at helping the cruise lines. It did not become a sticking point because lawmakers from both parties were eager to act swiftly on the bill, added the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss behind-the-scenes talks.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, tweeted: “The giant cruise companies incorporate overseas to dodge US taxes, flag vessels overseas to avoid US taxes and laws, and pollute without offset. Why should we bail them out?”
Trump seemed to endorse that argument Thursday. The president said he liked the idea expressed on Twitter by Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Missouri, that cruise lines should come back to America and pay their taxes.
“I do like the concept of perhaps coming in and registering here, coming into the United States,” Trump said. “It’s very tough to make a loan to a company when they are based in a different country, but with that being said, they have thousands and thousands of people that work there.”
Then Trump left the door open to helping the cruise lines some other way.
“Look, it’s a big business, it’s a great business,” Trump said. “So we are going to work very hard on the cruise line business, and we are going to try and work something out.”
In trading Friday, Carnival's stock dropped 19%. Royal Caribbean fell 15%, and Norwegian sank more than 23%.
After outbreaks aboard several vessels, Trump ordered all three companies to suspend all outbound cruises from the United States on March 14 for 30 days — a pause in revenue that could ultimately have a more devastating impact.
Already, the three companies have lost considerable market value.
Carnival shares have fallen nearly 65%, Norwegian’s shares are down 73%, and Royal Caribbean’s shares are down 69%, according to CNBC.
— Information provided by The Associated Press was used to supplement this report.
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