The operator of the ill-fated Ruby Princess ship – which is linked to more than 20 coronavirus deaths in Australia – says it will resume cruises within months.
Carnival Cruise Line said it planned to gradually resume cruising in August, nearly five months after the coronavirus pandemic brought its operations to a halt.
But the return will be confined to North America markets, with Australian cruises on hold until at least August 31.
A sailing planned from Honolulu to Brisbane on October 6 has already been cancelled.
Miami-based Carnival Cruise Line is the largest brand owned by Carnival Corporation, which also owns Princess Cruises.
The Ruby Princess, Princess Cruises’ ship, is responsible for one of Australia’s worst coronavirus outbreaks. As well as the fatalities, about 600 infections have been traced to letting the ship dock in Sydney and disembark 2700 passengers in March.
The Ruby Princess eventually left Australia for its home port in the Philippines on April 23.
A special commission of inquiry into the Ruby Princess debacle continued in Sydney on Tuesday.
But Carnival said cruises from the US would on August 1 or soon after, with eight ships leaving Galveston, Miami and Port Canaveral.
Their destinations will include the Bahamas and Cozumel, Mexico, according to Carnival’s web site.
Any resumption would comply with public health regulations, the company said.
The US Centres for Disease Control issued a no-sail order to cruise companies on March 14.
It was later extended until expire July 24, although the agency might decide to lift it sooner.
The CDC said infectious diseases could easily spread when crew members from a ship with an outbreak transferred to other ships.
It noted outbreaks of COVID-19 on cruise ships also posed a risk because passengers could spread the disease into communities across the world after disembarkation.
Carnival Cruise Line said it was still determining what specific measures it would take to prevent future outbreaks once it resumed sailing.
“We continue to engage with the CDC and government officials at a variety of levels about new protocols we would implement prior to a return to sailing,” it said.
“We will also be in discussions with officials in the destinations we visit.”
Carnival said passengers will get refunds or vouchers for future travel if their cruises were cancelled.
Carnival Cruise Line has 27 ships and transported five million passengers in 2019.
Other cruise companies are also making plans to return to service.
Royal Caribbean has said it intends to resume at least some sailings on June 12, while Norwegian Cruise Like plans to restart some operations on July 1.
Cruise companies have taken a huge hit from the coronavirus, which stranded some ships at sea with sick passengers and crew.
A month after the no-sail order went into effect, the CDC said it knew of at least 15 ships with crew still on board showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Carnival Cruise Line halted new sailings on March 13. It initially expected to be able to sail again on April 10.