It would be easy to see Carnival Corporation’s cancellation of all New Orleans cruises through the summer and feel that we’re being left out, particularly as the cruise line ramps up for what they hope will be a booming business after enough people feel ready to get out of coronavirus pandemic, quarantines and state-imposed stay-at-home orders.
But that would be shortsighted.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cruise travel “exacerbates the global spread of COVID-19” and the nation’s public health agency “recommends that travelers defer all cruise travel worldwide,” according to its website.
Carnival has canceled all North American cruises through July 31. In a Monday morning announcement, the company said it plans to sail again, starting Aug. 1, out of Miami, Port Canaveral and Galveston. Only a few days ago the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure announced an investigation into Carnival’s response to the outbreak. The company did not say when it plans to resume sailing from New Orleans, noting that all other cruises have been canceled through August 31.
"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," Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen said Monday.
The cruise business is big business worldwide, and it’s an important part of our Louisiana economy. Norwegian has notified investors it could go out of business if they cannot pull off a financial survival plan. The company operates in New Orleans like Carnival. Such a development wouldn’t help things.
Port NOLA reported 1.18 million cruise passenger movements in 2018 and that jumped to 1.2 million cruise passengers in 2019, including an increase in cruise vessel calls from 235 calls in 2018 to 251 in 2019. Consider how much each passenger pays to enjoy themselves on a cruise, consider how many out-of-area customers arrive early and stay after cruises in New Orleans, and that adds up to a large chunk of business and quite an economic impact for the Crescent City and the state of Louisiana.
This is yet another example of the delicate balance between handling a significant public health emergency and opening a hard-braked economy in need of opening to save livelihoods as we save lives. Tourism is a vital Louisiana industry and it is taking a large hit because of the coronavirus shutdown.
We encourage New Orleans and Louisiana officials to look at Carnival’s plans now so they can work with Carnival and other cruise leaders — as well as the shore businesses that benefit — to find ways to avoid entire ship exposures to the virus while allowing those who want to venture out on cruise ships to do so, hopefully with great caution.