PORT CANAVERAL, Fla. — For the first time since the restart of cruising at Port Canaveral, two cruise lines are canceling sailings.
But the port’s CEO, Capt. John Murray, sees the cancellations as a short-term issue, as cruise lines navigate the omicron variant.
Murray said passenger counts are down, but right now, it’s difficult to tell what’s seasonal and what may be COVID-19-related.
“You may see a slow-down in cruising, but I don’t see any indication that we’re going to have the same cessation in operations that we saw in March of 2020,” Murray said.
Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas canceled two chartered cruises this month because of canceled venues. And the Norwegian Escape canceled two regular sailings scheduled for Jan.15 and Jan. 22 of this month “due to ongoing COVID-19 related disruptions.”
“Obviously, we have the surge with omicron right now and you know everyone’s taking the right precautions in the way they feel they can handle it best,” Murray said.
Cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron has been on 12 cruises since sailings resumed from U.S. ports. He said Wednesday that a couple of cancellations aren’t something to be too concerned about. He said cruise lines are not going to operate their ships if they can’t provide 100% of the vacation experience consumers are expecting.
“The high number of people that are sailing shows a very high confidence rate. They understand that COVID on board ships is unavoidable just as it is ashore. But, the positivity rates aboard the ship are significantly lower than what we’re seeing ashore,” Chiron said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s conditional sailing order is set to expire on Jan. 15, but the agency has already unveiled a new “voluntary” program for the cruise industry.
“The good news is there are protocols, there is testing and it’s working,” Murray said.
The port will miss out on a few sailings this month, but very soon a new ship will be arriving ahead of schedule. The Carnival Liberty begins sailings on Jan. 24.
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