Carnival plans Aug. 1 cruise launches as lawmakers investigate

Democrats said Friday they want to probe safety

The Grand Princess was one of two Carnival Corp. cruise ships that had outbreaks of COVID-19.  (Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The Grand Princess was one of two Carnival Corp. cruise ships that had outbreaks of COVID-19. (Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Posted May 4, 2020 at 1:08pm

Three days after a House committee announced it would investigate the company's handling of the coronavirus outbreak, Carnival Cruise Line announced Monday that it plans to resume North American service Aug. 1.

Carnival Corp., the world's largest cruise line company, said it would launch eight ships — three from Miami, two from Port Canaveral, Fla., and three from Galveston, Texas, — as of Aug. 1 as part of its Carnival Cruise Line, which is one of nine brands that are part of the Carnival Corp. Carnival Cruise Line ships other than the eight cruises departing from those locations will be canceled through Aug. 31, the company said.

"We are committed to supporting all public health efforts to manage the COVID-19 situation," the company said in a press release. "We are taking a measured approach, focusing our return to service on a select number of homeports where we have more significant operations that are easily accessible by car for the majority of our guests."

The decision to return to service Aug. 1 came just three days after Democrats on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee said they were launching an investigation into the company's safety practices.

In a letter describing cruise ships as "a fertile breeding ground for infectious diseases," House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter A. DeFazio, D-Ore., and  House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Chairman Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., asked for correspondence related to the outbreak. 

"We would hope that the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic will place a renewed emphasis on public health and passenger safety, but frankly that has not been seen up to this point," the two wrote in a letter to Carnival CEO Arnold Donald. "It seems as though Carnival Corporation and its portfolio of nine cruise lines, which represents 109 cruise ships, is still trying to sell this cruise line fantasy and ignoring the public health threat posed by coronavirus to potential future passengers." 

The lawmakers also sent letters to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Coast Guard requesting their correspondence with Carnival about the pandemic.

Carnival said in a statement that it is reviewing the lawmakers letter and will cooperate. "Our goal is the same as the committee's goal: to protect the health, safety and well-being of our guests and crew, along with compliance and environmental protection," it said.

The company has been at the center of two notable coronavirus outbreaks. On Feb. 3, Carnival Corp.'s Diamond Princess was quarantined in Yokohama, Japan, after more than 700 passengers became infected with the virus and nine died.

A month later, Carnival Corp.'s Grand Princess suffered an outbreak that infected at least 21, with one passenger dying.  

The CDC on March 14 issued a "no sail" order for 30 days, arguing that the agency "has reason to believe that cruise ship travel may continue to introduce, transmit, or spread COVID-19". It renewed that order April 9, extending it through July 24.

But Donald defended his company in a media call in mid-April, telling reporters that the company followed protocols while handling outbreaks aboard its ships.