Carnival Cruise Line is likely to be the first of Carnival Corp.'s nine brands to resume service in North America, CEO Arnold Donald told attendees of Travel Weekly's CruiseWorld 2020.
When that happens is still to be determined, Donald said, because although the CDC's recent Conditional Sail Order, which replaced the No Sail Order, is good news because "we're talking about sailing again," technical details are forthcoming.
"It's too early to be able to announce with any precision exactly when we'd be cruising again," he said. "Because the order itself has additional guidance that has to come out."
Carnival is likely to be first, Donald said, because the brand is well-suited to short cruises from a variety of U.S. homeports, and due to the size of its fleet.
"More than likely Carnival will be our first brand, but we'll have to see how it all plays out," he said.
CruiseWorld was conducted virtually this year, and Donald kicked off the event's first general session with editor in chief Arnie Weissmann, who moderated the panel. They were joined by a group of the company's top cruise executives, including Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy, who said the line's first cruises would likely launch from Miami and Port Canaveral, Fla., on the Carnival Horizon and the Carnival Breeze, respectively.
One president who hinted at a restart date was Josh Leibowitz, president of Seabourn. When asked when the luxe line might restart, he said that -- that while he'd love to have an exact answer -- he tells people, "that right now we're focused on, and we want people to focus on, let's say, summer next year."
Citing the limited resumption of service on two of Carnival's European brands, Aida and Costa, Donald expressed confidence that all of the brands will be able to provide "a safe and responsible cruise experience that serves the best interests of public health, and that great experience of cruise that guests have come to know and love."
And he said that guest satisfaction scores on its the Europe sailings were the "highest ever," despite protocols and restrictions such as universal testing, controlled shore excursions, onboard mask wearing and physical distancing -- which Donald said is the preferred term because the brands want guests to stay socially connected.
Costa Cruises' chief commercial officer Mario Zanetti, also on the panel, said that the policy of controlled shore excursions have been accepted by passengers.
"They acknowledge that everything we do is to safeguard the guests as well as crew and the communities we visit," he said.
In response to a question from Weissmann, Liebowitz said that Seabourn's passengers will still be able to book private shore excursions. "We'll have shore excursions available to guests on a private basis if you wish to go alone, or with another couple, or what have you," he said. "Obviously we'll be observing the requirements of physical distancing."
Donald cited hopeful developments for the industry and general state of the pandemic, such as Pfizer's positive vaccine news and developments that will make testing both faster and cheaper.
When asked what the election of Joe Biden might mean for the industry, Donald said he would not "presume to suggest" what the administration might or might not do, but said that mitigating the virus "will clearly be the mindset and approach of any new administration."