No cruises until at least March 2021, Carnival announces

Carnival Cruise Line is delaying its vessels from returning to sea until at least March 2021 as the coronavirus pandemic surges again around the world, according to numerous sources.

The move, announced by the company Thursday, was the latest evidence of the cruise industry’s uncertain timeline for return as the pandemic has kept sailings suspended since mid-March.

All three major cruise lines ― Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian ― have continued to extend the shutdown month to month while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention keeps a no-sail order in place within U.S. waters.

Carnival most recently announced that voyages would be canceled through Jan. 31, but on Thursday the company moved its tentative restart date back again, this time until at least Feb. 28.

“We apologize to our guests, but we must continue to take a thoughtful, deliberate and measured approach as we map out our return to operations in 2021,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “Our commitment to the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is at the forefront of our decisions and operations.”

Carnival also postponed the launch of its new megaship, the Mardis Gras, until at least April 24, 2021, according to reports.

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian also announced this week that most if not all their respective sailings would be canceled through February. Disney Cruise Line said Thursday that it would cancel its cruises through the end of January.

In October, the CDC issued a “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order,” which will help the cruise industry implement safety measures that would allow operations to resume.

In order for cruises to ultimately return to the sea, the CDC is requiring the companies to come up with their own plans to deal with COVID-19 with minimal help from federal, state and local governments.

The plans must be detailed and specific, and will then be subject to review and approval by the CDC and the U.S. Coast Guard.

The cruise lines said they are prepared for the CDC to implement further health restrictions in the meantime.

The first foreign cruise line to return to the Caribbean last month did so with nearly immediate consequences.

A passenger on board the SeaDream 1 vessel tested positive for the coronavirus four days into a seven-day journey. The ship, owned by SeaDream Yacht Club, was forced to return to port early after making stops in Saint Vincent, Canouan Island, Tobago Cays and Union Island in the Grenadines, reports said.

On Thursday, the U.S. surpassed 14 million confirmed cases of the virus and more than 275,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

America’s 3,157 deaths from COVID-19 in a single day Wednesday broke the previous record of 2,603 set on April 15, according to reports.

Also Wednesday, the number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in the United States surpassed 100,000, the most at any point since the beginning of the pandemic.