Passengers head out on cruise amid Covid-19 fears

Cruise passengers arrive to board Royal Caribbean International’s Enchantment of the Seas at Cruise Terminal No. 2 in Galveston on March 11.

The day when cruise ships can again sail from Galveston and other U.S. ports has been a moving target in an industry nearly sunk by COVID-19.

But a trade association representing passenger liners — including those sailing from Galveston — on Friday offered some clarity and consensus, saying its members have voluntarily extended the suspension of cruise operations from U.S. ports until Sept. 15.

The Cruise Lines International Association, whose members include Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean, cited the “ongoing situation within the United States related to COVID-19” for the voluntary extension.

The cruise lines had hoped to resume sailings as soon as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention no-sail order expired July 24, the association said.

“And although we had hoped that cruise activity could resume as soon as possible after that date, it is increasingly clear that more time will be needed to resolve barriers to resumption in the United States,” the association said in a statement.

The voluntary suspension applies to all association members to which the no-sail order applied, which includes vessels with capacity to carry 250 persons or more.

Association members plan to evaluate the pandemic and make determinations about another extension if necessary, according to the statement.

The cruise ship industry is vital to Galveston, from where more than 1 million cruise passengers sailed last year.

The Port of Galveston had expected cruise ships and related parking to generate $38 million of a projected $54.5 million in revenue this year.

“We all look forward to the day when cruise ships will begin sailing from Galveston again and we support the cautious approach that the cruise lines are taking to resume operations when the time is right,” Port Director Rodger Rees said.

Because of the pandemic, Carnival Cruise Line, which homeports in Galveston, lost $4.4 billion in the second quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly filing submitted Thursday to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The cruise corporation told federal regulators it didn’t know when it would resume sailings.

Carnival and Royal Caribbean haven’t sailed from the island or other U.S. ports since March 12 because of federal health orders banning sailings during the pandemic.

Laura Elder: 409-683-5248; laura.elder@galvnews.com

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