The cruise line has been digging itself out of its pandemic-related staffing problems and that’s good news for passengers.
For the cruise industry, the worst part of the covid pandemic is well in the rear view mirror (knock on wood). But that doesn’t mean that challenges have not lingered.
All three of the major cruise lines, Carnival Cruise (CCL) – Get Carnival Corporation Report, Royal Caribbean (RCL) – Get Royal Caribbean Group Report and Norwegian Cruise Line (NCLH) – Get Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Report closed as soon as the covid pandemic hit in March of 2020, and stayed closed for a year.
All three of them spent millions of dollars refurbishing their ships to get them to the highest possible safety standards, while the Center for Disease Control slowly lowered the risk level associated with sailing. When sailing resumed in the summer of 2021, the CDC originally deemed it a Level Four risk, before eventually eliminating all risk warnings in March.
But even though the cruise line industry is largely back, the covid era continues to linger in many ways, particularly when it comes to the issue of labor shortages.
Labor Shortages Still Linger, Impacting Service
There’s a number of reasons for the labor shortage every company finds itself mired in, and everybody’s situation is highly singular.
Some people are just too emotionally burnt out to work. 1.8 million women were more or less driven out of the workforce in order to attend to childcare or other family issues in the U.S. Some people switched careers or went back to school, and many people decided to retire early. These are just a few of the reasons why many companies are still not able to find enough employees.
The cruise line industry has not been spared the headaches caused by the labor shortage. Cruise Hive notes that “39% of seafarers working in the cruise industry became unemployed between 2020 and 2022,” and “Of that 39%, only 60% returned to work for the same employers when the ships started sailing again. A staggering 40% did not return at all to sea or started working for a new employer.”
This employee shortage has led to a number of ramifications, including reductions in service, while Carnival has limited passenger capacity on several sailings on its U.K.-based Cunard Line, canceling several bookings in the process.
Carnival prides itself on high ratios of crew per guest. But the cruise line industry faces even more challenges than many companies. Because cruise lines nearly always flag their ships outside of the U.S. in order to work around American labor laws, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more control over the cruise industry than it has over perhaps any other form of travel.
The different safety standards in different countries makes it difficult for companies to fully staff theirs ships, owing to difficulties with testing requirements, quarantine periods, Visas as well as other health and safety protocols.
Image source: Carnival.
Carnival Has Been Able To Bring Back A Fan Favorite
As reported by Cruise Hive, Carnival “has worked closely with the U.S. State Department to process crew members’ visas in an effort to relieve staffing shortages.”
As a result, Carnival has announced plans to reopen its Cucina del Capitano specialty restaurant, which is a fan favorite dining option on nine different ships, and has been closed since mid-May due to staffing issues.
Cucina del Capitano was popular with Carnival fans for being one of the least expensive specialty restaurants, though prices were increased in May from $15 a person to $18 a person.
While the restaurants were open for lunch with a limited menu, only the location at Carnival Cruise Line’s flagship, Mardi Gras remained fully open. The changes were made so that crew members would be freed up to help more guests.
Carnival Cruise Line brand ambassador John Heald has said the restaurant will reopen on Saturday, August 6, 2022.
“As of August 6th you can eat dinner Italian family style again at Cucina Del Capitano,” Heald said in a statement. “That means you can have passionate conversations, wave your hands in the air like you just don’t care, and then at the end of a wonderful meal still find room for a cannoli.”