World's largest cruise line is selling 13 of its ships amid 'region by region restart' from August

Benjamin Parker
One of Carnival's cruise lines will return next month - DENNIS and ILENE MACDONALD

The world’s largest cruise operator, Carnival Corporation, has confirmed that it will be shedding 13 ships from across its fleet as it prepares for a staggered “destination by destination” restart from August.

Regional lines will be best placed to sail first, according to chief executive Arnold Donald, as “these brands are characterised by ready access with drive-to markets and the availability of shorter cruises”.

While one potential line that fits this description is Britain’s P&O Cruises, part of the Carnival group, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s latest guidance, which advises against any cruise ship travel, means passengers are unlikely to embark any time soon.

Whereas in Germany, cruise line AIDA, unshackled by restrictions from the German authorities, will be back sailing again in August. Donald said that the Carnival subsidiary received over 1,000 bookings for its August voyages in just one day, and easily sold out on its first sailing, a three-day ‘cruise to nowhere’ aboard AIDAperla.

Donald also stated that cruising was close to restarting in Italy, which could mean a return to service for Costa Cruises.

But the chief executive stressed that the company will not make a full return in terms of passenger capacity until 2022 at the earliest.

“[The] nature of the restart is going to be almost country by country and destination by destination,” he said, adding that how people interact on shore, in terms of social distancing and other measures, will be the “critical thing”.

Along with the UK, America is likely to remain off itineraries for a while yet. In May it was reported that Carnival Cruise Line was was targeting a US return in August; at the time they were the first major cruise operator, representing a fifth of global cruise capacity, to set out its plans for resumption.

In an exclusive interview with The Telegraph, Donald dampened any hopes, explaining they had not definitively “pronounced a resumption of cruise”.

Subsequently the majority of cruise lines in the United States have extended their pause operations until at least the middle of September, and Donald has stated that cruise have not gotten “to the point of serious resumption of cruise discussions” with authorities.

News of further reduction to Carnival’s fleets comes only a week after P&O Cruises revealed they had sold Oceana, which had only been in service with them for 18 years.

Current plans would see Carnival’s total capacity across all brands cut by nearly nine per cent – an unprecedented fall. One cruise insider told Telegraph Travel that this is particularly significant because, as the largest cruise company, others will look to Carnival as a barometer reflecting the wider industry.

Carnival's Mardi Gras, which will be their biggest ship ever, will now not join the fleet until at least 2021

While it was planned, pre-coronavirus, for four of the vessels to leave the group and some movement had been expected, the marked increase in farewells is another sign of how seriously the pandemic has rocked cruise lines. When asked if any of the ships will be scrapped, Donald said: “We don't scrap ships, we recycle them”.

Chief financial officer David Bernstein confirmed that “just a few” would likely be scrapped, or recycled.

The cruise giant, which operates 104 ships across nine brands, has already delayed a number of new vessels. The highly anticipated Mardi Gras, which was to be its biggest ever ship, has been pushed back until 2021, with Enchanted Princess (Princess Cruises) and Iona (P&O Cruises) also being affected.