When Will Cruise Lines Return to Full Capacity?

The cruise industry has taken another coronavirus-related blow, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) elevated its travel warning last week for cruise ships from Level 3 to Level 4, the highest level.

As a result, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have canceled several sailings amid rising fears of Omicron-related coronavirus infections, but the Carnival Corporation said it has not canceled any upcoming voyages.

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Now travelers are wondering when the cruise industry will return to full capacity.

During an interview with TravelPulse Executive Editor Eric Bowman, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) vice president Charles Sylvia spoke about how to define “full capacity” and when cruise fans can expect a return to normalcy within the industry.

“There are two types of capacity to talk about; fleet capacity and onboard capacity. I can speak to the fleet capacity and at the end of the year, we had approximately 80 percent. The CLIA cruise line account for 95 percent of the cruise capacity worldwide, so around 275 ocean-going ships. As of December 31, we were at approximately 80 percent of that fleet being back in service. We expect that by the end of the first quarter, 100 percent of the ships will be back in service.”

“As for onboard capacity, those are managed very closely by the individual cruise lines. I can tell you that I’ve already been on a cruise that was at 100 percent capacity and came home negative and had a wonderful time. The protocols were in place and working.”

“In this time, we’ve seen one or two brands that have backpedaled in terms of new bookings for January departures just so they could control the capacity of their ships, but more and more ships are expected to add capacity as this variant becomes a thing of the past.”

The CDC’s latest guidance encourages travelers who decide to board a cruise to get fully vaccinated ahead of their trip and to get a booster dose if eligible. Passengers who are not fully vaccinated are advised to self-quarantine for at least five days after travel.

“While I’m encouraged that Americans are continuing to cruise, the cruise lines must do more to quickly isolate guests and crew who get COVID onboard,” TheCruiseGenius.com’s Scott Lara told TravelPulse. “There seems to be much confusion among guests when COVID is detected on cruise ships. That being said, cruising does remain the safest vacation option today.”

When the CDC’s latest conditional sailing order (CSO) expires on January 15, officials said the agency would transition to a voluntary program in coordination with the cruise industry to detect, mitigate and control the spread of COVID-19 onboard ships.

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