Carnival CEO Defends Company Response to Coronavirus Pandemic

Carnival Corp. CEO Arnold Donald defended the cruise line’s response to the global coronavirus pandemic, saying “Cruise ships are not a source for coronavirus,” during an interview Sunday night on ‘Axios on HBO.’

“We have hundreds of cruise ships out there. Very few had cases on them,” Donald said. “The one that had the most cases was very early on, when no one understood hardly anything.”

Donald and Carnival have been criticized for not acting quickly enough to suspend cruises in the wake of the growth of the virus, particularly with the Carnival-owned Diamond Princess. The ship left Yokohama, Japan, on Feb. 3 with an infected passenger. It decided to return to its home port partway through the journey, but 705 passengers ended up being diagnosed with the virus before it was finally allowed to disembark on March 1.

“20/20 hindsight, could everyone have done something sooner? Perhaps,” said Donald. “But it was an evolving, learning situation.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned on March 8 that Americans, especially those with underlying heath conditions, “should not travel by cruise ship.” Four days later, virtually every major cruise line suspended operations for 60 days.

According to USA Today, Donald was asked about Carnival’s decision to continue cruising, even offering passenger discounts, after health officials issued warnings on the spread of coronavirus. He said the company followed “every protocol in place.”

“All I’m suggesting is that a cruise ship is not a riskier environment. People perceive it that way. But the reality is, it’s not,” he said, noting that he believes cruising will come back stronger when the virus threat is over. “I think cruises ultimately will be even better than they were before. People love cruising. Up until the day we paused people wanted to cruise.”

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