Maryland’s cruise terminal will be allowed to reopen Saturday for the first time in more than a year, Gov. Larry Hogan announced, among many COVID-19 restrictions the state is lifting this weekend.
But prospective passengers are still months away from sailing from Charm City to the sunny Caribbean.
Carnival and Royal Caribbean, the two cruise lines that operate from the Port of Baltimore’s Cruise Maryland terminal on McComas Street, must work with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to resume service, the Republican governor said during a Wednesday news conference.
William P. Doyle, executive director of the Port of Baltimore, said the Maryland Port Administration and the cruise lines are drafting agreements to implement the protocols and procedures required by the CDC to allow cruises to restart.
“There is nothing more important than the health and safety of our passengers, ships’ crew, and our port workers,” Doyle said in a statement. “We know there is a lot of pent-up demand for cruising and we are very excited and looking forward to welcoming our cruise ships back and giving people great vacations to wonderful destinations.”
Carnival could return to sea in July, but not from Baltimore
Carnival is aiming to offer a select number of cruises from U.S. ports in July, but the 2,680-passenger Pride, which sails from Baltimore, is not one of the ships setting sail.
The cruise line hopes to begin operating service on three ships from Florida and Texas, and possibly cruises to Alaska from Seattle, “if Carnival can find a solution” to allow it, the company said.
“The company is cancelling sailings on all other ships through July 30,” Carnival announced this week.
Guests whose cruises are cancelled are eligible for a future cruise credit and onboard credit or a full refund, the company said.
A Carnival spokesperson did not respond to a question about when cruises might resume in Baltimore. Trips departing from the port in September were the soonest available for purchase on the website, as of Thursday.
Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line, said the company continues to have “constructive discussions with the CDC but still [has] many questions that remain unanswered.”
“We are working diligently to resume sailing in the U.S. and meet the CDC guidelines,” Duffy said in a statement. “We sincerely appreciate the continued patience and understanding of our guests and travel advisor partners and will share additional information as quickly as we can.”
Royal Caribbean won’t sail before July
Royal Caribbean’s 2,440-passenger Grandeur of the Seas, the other cruise ship that sails from Baltimore, could return sooner. But likely not much.
The cruise line has “decided to extended its suspension of sailings for our global fleet through June 30,” except for a select, half-dozen ships, which don’t include the Grandeur, the company said in a statement on its website Thursday.
The next Royal Caribbean cruise from Baltimore with tickets listed for sale online as of Thursday does not depart until January 2022.
“At Royal Caribbean International, our guests and crew’s safety and well-being are always our top priorities,” the cruise line said.
Do I have to wear my mask the whole time?
The CDC’s order requiring passengers to wear masks on planes, trains and other transportation remains in effect. Passengers can remove their masks in their own cruise ship cabins and “for brief periods of time while eating or drinking,” and masks are required to be worn in crowded settings.
But fully vaccinated cruise passengers won’t have to wear them as much, the CDC announced Wednesday, updating its guidance for cruise lines.
“Cruise ship operators, at their discretion, may advise passengers and crew that — if they are fully vaccinated — they may gather or conduct activities outdoors, including engaging in extended meal service or beverage consumption, without wearing a mask except in crowded settings,” the agency said in its updated operations manual.
New guidance issued Thursday from the organization said that fully vaccinated people can resume most activities both indoor and outdoor without wearing a mask or social distancing, did not specify any new guidance about cruise ships.