Yesterday, we reported that Jamaica and the Cayman Islands informed two Carnival cruise ships that they are prohibited from calling on ports in these countries over concerns with coronavirus. Our report was based on information from crew members on the Carnival Freedom and Carnival Horizon who wished to remain anonymous.

We also requested information from Carnival’s public relations department for information regarding this issue. Unfortunately, we did not receive a response to our inquiries.

As we reported, Carnival informed passengers on the Carnival Horizon that they would not be permitted to go ashore in Ocho Rios today.  Passengers on the Carnival Freedom would not be allowed to get off of the ship in Montego Bay. And passengers on both ships would not be permitted ashore in George Town, Grand Cayman later this week.

However, it was Carnival Cruise Lines, not these ports of call, that decided that guests would not be allowed ashore in these countries.

In a letter to its guests, Carnival stated that it allegedly wanted to “avoid any possibility of a visibility of a visit to a destination where there is uncertainty or risk being turned away . . . To be clear, there is no health situation to trigger this concern, but we are making this change to avoid even the possibility of a disruption. We understand that some guests will be disappointed and trust that they understand that this decision is being made to protect their vacation and to maximize their experience with us.”

Carnival’s full letter to the passengers stated that it was:

Later yesterday evening, CNN reported that Carnival had voluntarily made these changes.

“Carnival Cruise Lines is changing some ship itineraries as some countries are not allowing ships to dock because of concerns over coronavirus. Carnival said in a statement it is changing itineraries for ships scheduled to sail to Grand Cayman and Jamaica this week. ‘A number of Caribbean destinations continue to work through their policies with regards to cruise ship visits. And while we are following all US CDC and World Health Organization screening protocols and guidelines, we want to avoid any possibility of a visit to a destination where there is uncertainty or we risk being turned away,’ the cruise line said in a statement.”

The Acting Port Director of the Port Authority of the Cayman Islands contacted our Cruise Law News Facebook page yesterday evening and made it clear that it was Carnival that dropped the Cayman from a port for these recent sailings:

“… we have not blocked any Carnival Ship from calling the Cayman Islands … We were informed this afternoon that Carnival had altered its itinerary for three of their ships, Carnival Paradise, Carnival Horizon and Carnival Freedom. The call from Carnival Paradise has been reinstated by them. However, I can confidently state that we did not block any calls for any Carnival ship.”

Last week, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands blocked the MSC Meraviglia from docking when the ship called on Ocho Rios, Jamaica and later when the ship was scheduled to call on George Town, Grand Cayman due to concerns with the coronavirus after a crew member apparently had influenza. The MSC cruise ship later sailed on to Cozumel, Mexico where authorities initially prohibited it from docking. Mexico later reconsidered after health officials in Cozumel found no evidence that any of the passengers or crew members had coronavirus.

Several publication reported that these itinerary disruptions, which kept the passengers bottled-up on the MSC ship, may has caused tension to escalate on the ship. A fight later broke out between guests and crew members, resulting in the ship’s security staff pepper-spraying some of the unruly passengers.

Several readers have suggested that Carnival’s decision to prohibit these two ships from calling on Jamaica and the Cayman Islands was in retaliation to these countries’ decision to stop, at least temporarily, cruise ships from calling at their ports. In my view, Carnival has always traditionally considered itself the “big dog” on the block and bristles and bullies when Caribbean ports of call make unilateral decisions which Carnival disagrees with. One poster on our Facebook page stated:

“Carnival is putting these countries on notice. Were taking our business elsewhere for irresponsible actions on their part.”

As matters now stand, the Carnival Freedom’s will call on Key West today, followed by a sea day, then Belize and Cozumel and return to Galveston on Sunday. The Carnival Horizon will call on Amber Cover in the Dominican Republic, Grand Turk, then a sea day, and Nassau, Bahamas on Thursday before it returns to Miami on Friday.

Vacationing families, who paid to spend time in Jamaica and the Caymans, will now visit other ports, including Nassau which is rarely anyone’s favorite port. This decision to intentionally disrupt their guests’ vacations seems secondary to Carnival’s decision to send a message to these powerless ports not to make plans that affect Carnival, even if it involves decisions which these sovereign countries think is best to protect the health of their own citizens.

March 3, 2020 Update: A Jamaican newspaper reports this morning information which should provide insight into Carnival’s thought process:

“Jamaica is at risk of losing at least three ship calls this week as a ‘stand-off’ over protocols between the Ministry of Health and Wellness and Carnival Cruise Limited deepened last night, with the cruise line threatening to bypass the country if the Government failed to soften its stance on safeguards against the deadly novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Up to last night, ministry officials were locked in discussions with senior executives of the cruise line who warned of their intention if local authorities did not relent on the stringency of protocol demands.”

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Photo credit: Roger W from Sarasota, Florida, U.S.A. – George Town – Carnival Freedom, CC BY-SA 2.0, commons / wikimedia.