Along the Coast: Passenger-less cruise ships still sailing to stay in working order

A screenshot from shows cruise ships off the South Florida coast on the afternoon of April 23. Map provided

By Mary Thurwachter

Coastal observers who gaze out into the ocean after dark have seen large cruise ships lighting up the horizon in April. The vessels, bound by a no-sail order due to the coronavirus, had nowhere to go but they are still on the move.

On the east coast of South Florida, at least a half dozen ships have been in the same boat, so to speak — Celebrity Edge, Norwegian Bliss, Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas and three Carnival cruise liners: Conquest, Horizon and Fascination.

“We have announced a pause in our operations until June 26,” says Carnival spokesman Vance Gulliksen. “All 27 Carnival Cruise Line ships have been docked at our North American or Australian homeports with crew members, no guests, since mid-March. We have ships docked in ports such as Miami, Tampa, Port Canaveral and other homeports.  Ships are either docked in port or anchored at sea near the specific homeport.”

On April 22, Fascination and Horizon were anchored near Miami, Gulliksen says.  “Conquest was docked in Miami.  But this is constantly changing.”

Cruise industry expert Stewart Chiron, aka “Cruise Guy,” says there are many cruise ships based at Port Miami, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral. “They are continuously sailing up and down the east coast of Florida, keeping ships in working order. Crews onboard are performing maintenance and upgrades to ships. There are only minimal crews left aboard the ships, no passengers.”

The largest clusters of cruise ships have been in the Bahamas north of Bimini and west of Great Harbor Cay, Chiron said in April. But in May, there have been fewer ships cruising up and down the Florida coastline.

"Some ships are heading to ports to begin cold storage preparations until operations are normalized," he said. "When cruise lines resume sailings, fewer ships will be used at the beginning," Chiron said. "Carnival Cruise Line provided an example that they intend to begin sailing from three ports, Miami, Pt. Canaveral and Galveston, using eight of their 27 ships."

Chiron, based in Miami, is confident the cruise industry will rebound.

“I hope sailings begin to resume in July,” he says. “There are going to be many schedule changes as fewer ships will be sailing in Alaska and Europe this year. There are many people ready to go now. They're just waiting to be told when and where. People holding reservations should wait and let the cruise lines cancel so they can take advantage of future cruise credits and other enticements. Bookings are up for 2021. For 2020, people wanting to make reservations are just waiting for details.”


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