Carnival Plans to Sail Again in August, Maybe

The Carnival Corporation, the large cruise firm extensively criticized for its dealing with of the coronavirus pandemic, introduced on Monday that a few of its ships could start crusing once more as quickly as August.

For months, lawmakers and epidemiologists have blamed Carnival for failing to include outbreaks on its ships and spreading the virus the world over. Its response to the pandemic is the topic of a felony investigation by the Australian police and a congressional investigation in the United States.

It would be only a partial reopening, and the timing could change as the company devises new safety protocols for its cruises. The eight ships that are slated to return to service are a small portion of the Carnival Corporation’s fleet of 105 vessels. Carnival Cruise Line said voyages on several of its other ships would be canceled through the beginning of October.

Royal Caribbean, the main rival to Carnival, has not set a date for restarting its cruises, though other cruise companies could set sail even earlier than August. A spokeswoman for Norwegian Cruise Line, Maria Elena Monasterios, said on Monday that the company intended to “relaunch cruise operations” on July 1, though she declined to say where those cruises would take place.

After a series of deadly outbreaks, critics of the cruise industry remain skeptical that the companies have the medical expertise to curb the spread of the coronavirus, which has sickened hundreds of cruise passengers over the last four months.

“They’ve got billions of dollars in assets that aren’t earning any income, and they want to get those going as quickly as possible,” said Ross Klein, a sociologist at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada who studies the cruise industry. “And they really continue to be more focused on the economics than on the public health.”

“We do not have enough information to say when it will be safe for cruise ships to resume sailing,” Ms. Shockey said.

In a second statement, the company played down the possibility of an Aug. 1 start date, saying that “any resumption of cruise operations — whenever that may be — is fully dependent” on discussions with government officials.

A spokesman for Carnival Cruise Line, Chris Chiames, said in a separate email that the exact reopening date would be subject to change.

“There is no assurance of a return on Aug. 1,” Mr. Chiames said. “Our intent was to convey that we will take a phased-in approach, no matter when that it is, and focus resources and new protocols on a limited number of operations.”

Asked to list the new safety protocols that the company plans to use in August, Mr. Chiames did not provide any specific examples but said the company would conduct enhanced health screenings and provide “additional sanitation.”

“These are all things that we are continuing to discuss internally and with government officials and public health experts,” he said.

Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, said cruise companies hoping to set sail this summer should consider instituting temperature checks and other health screenings for passengers and reducing the number of people on board.

“If you start out with a reduced number of passengers, that’s very useful,” Dr. Schaffner said. “That can have ramifications for all of the activities on the cruise ship.”

The Australian police are investigating whether the staff of a Carnival Corporation ship that docked in Sydney misled local authorities about a coronavirus outbreak on board.

In addition to the bad publicity, the cruise shutdown has put a financial strain on the Carnival Corporation.

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