Cruise industry ships are ramping up for a big 2022 return to the seas

Carnival Inspiration on a cruise to Ensenada from Long Beach on March 7, 2020.Carnival Inspiration
Carnival Inspiration on a cruise to Ensenada from Long Beach on March 7, 2020.Carnival Inspiration /

The COVID-19 pandemic hit every tourist and travel industry in some way but the cruise industry was hit the hardest and they still haven’t recovered. That will change in 2022.

Disneyland and Disney World and other theme parks took big hits after COVID hit and shuttered operations for months. In many cases, that industry is back almost to full capacity in some instances. In the cruise industry, nothing has returned to normal and the stigma that is now associated with the industry could keep vacationers away for a few more years.

The early days of the pandemic includes the mental images of stranded cruise liners with no port willing to let them in. Death onboard as the pandemic spread in such close quarters. No help and when help did come, the virus spread onshore and eventually the globe. The cruise industry was not responsible but they were the early poster child for the pandemic’s critical growth.

For many cruise lines, 2020 was a year without business and those that did find way to operate simply lost money. Carnival sold off old ships to recoup lost revenue and when 2021 arrived, restrictions in place from different countries and even states in the U.S. complicated how many could board a ship, where they could cruise to, and when and where they could return. Needless to say, 2021 didn’t offer much reprieve.

So will 2022 operate under a normal umbrella? It is starting look like that might happen. Norwegian Cruise lines are expected to return to full fleets on the seas starting early April. Carnival is expected to resume their operations as well but things are little more uncertain with Carnival.

From November to December, Carnival will begin their return with cruise ships leaving New Orleans, Miami, Long Beach, and Baltimore but those will be one ship only departing those ports and they are all the newer ships. The older ships like Liberty and Sunshine as well as some others have been shelved until 2022. It is unclear when normal and weekly itineraries will return.

The cruise industry is a huge business and livelihoods of those selling goods at port-of-calls are suffering with the lack of tourism.

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Princess Cruises won’t return until 2022 and the only cruise line currently operating close to normal is Disney Cruise Line but there are strict vaccination requirements as well as negative COVID testing that has to be completed before boarding.

Overall, the industry is starting to see some light at the end of this dark tunnel but they are still a long way away from getting back to normal and when they do, it will be interesting to see how many return.