The COVID-19 Omicron variant continues to challenge the cruise industry in unprecedented ways, with Carnival Legend becoming the latest ship to alter an itinerary out of “an abundance of caution.”
The Spirit-class cruise ship’s Jan. 9 sailing out of Baltimore, Maryland, was recently modified and shortened after a handful of calls in at Panama, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Grand Turk were removed, Cruise Industry News first reported on Saturday (Jan. 8).
As a result, the cruise that was originally supposed to last 14 days is now ten.
“Given the rapidly evolving COVID-related circumstances around the world, and in an abundance of caution, it will be necessary to modify the itinerary of your cruise. The voyage will now operate as a 10-day cruise returning to Baltimore 4 days earlier, on Wednesday, January 19, 2022,” Carnival explained in letter to guests.
Carnival Legend is now sailing to just three ports – Carnival’s private island, Half Moon Cay, in the Bahamas, St. Maarten, and Antigua. There’s now a total of six days at sea.
“Unfortunately, this also means we will not be able to operate the Panama Canal itinerary you were expecting. We are truly sorry for this unexpected change of plans and trust you understand we are making this decision given our commitment to the safety of our guests, crew, and the communities we visit,” Carnival’s letter goes on to read.
It’s possible that some ports of call will not allow passengers to disembark as destinations focus on slowing the spread of local COVID-19 cases.
“We are working closely with local health authorities in all ports on your cruise itinerary. Unfortunately, the rapid spread of the Omicron variant may shape how they view even a small number of cases, even when they are being managed with our rigorous protocols. We want you to know that local authorities at a destination could limit or deny the ship from entering the port,’ Carnival said in its letter.
Carnival offered impacted guests a $300 credit stateroom, a four-day pro-rated cruise fare reduction, an onboard credit of $245.80 per person and a 25 per cent future cruise credit, Cruise Industry News reported.
Omicron takes hold
The news comes as cruise companies modify or cancel sailings as they grapple with rising onboard cases of COVID-19.
Royal Caribbean International, last week, cancelled scheduled cruises on four ships for a few weeks due to “ongoing COVID-related circumstances around the world.”
According to a Jan. 7 posting on Royal Caribbean's health and travel alerts webpage, the following ships are pausing operations:
- Vision of the Seas’ return to cruising is postponed until March 7, 2022.
- Serenade of the Seas sailings from January 8 – March 5, returning after dry dock on April 26, 2022
- Jewel of the Seas sailings from January 9 – February 12, returning on February 20, 2022
- Symphony of the Seas sailings from January 8 – January 22, returning on January 29, 2022
Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) has also announced that a number of sailings across its fleet have been cancelled “due to ongoing travel restrictions," impacting seven ships.
The changes come after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), on Dec. 30, raised its travel warning for cruises to the highest level, “Level 4,” as the agency investigates dozens of ships that have had COVID-19 outbreaks amid a worldwide surge of the Omicron variant.
The CDC now calls cruising a high-risk activity, even among those who are fully vaccinated.
But the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) disagrees, calling the CDC’s move “perplexing” given that “cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard—far fewer than on land—and the majority of those cases are asymptomatic or mild in nature, posing little to no burden on medical resources onboard or onshore,” as CLIA explained in a statement on Dec. 30, 2021.