Advocacy Alerts

Cruise in the News

Preservation-Society , April 14, 2020

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a tremendous increase in global press coverage surrounding the cruise industry’s impacts on public health, providing a unique opportunity for Charleston to compare notes with our sister port cities. Around the world, the cruise landscape is rapidly changing: ports are denying entry to incoming ships, countries are struggling to accommodate infected passengers and crew members, and cruise companies are grappling with the financial consequences. 

The Ruby Princess in Sydney Harbor, photo courtesy of

At the center of the crisis is Carnival Cruise Corporation, which serves roughly 50% of the global cruise market under 10 cruise line brands. Carnival ships have had highly publicized outbreaks of COVID-19, including those on the Diamond Princess and Zaandam. In Australia, circumstances surrounding the decision to allow the Carnival Ruby Princess to dock in Sydney is under investigation. Despite many passengers displaying symptoms, 2,700 individuals were able to freely disembark the ship on March 19 – 660 of whom later tested positive for the virus, with 15 deaths to date. 

The Carnival Sunshine docked at Columbus Street Terminal, courtesy of the Post & Courier

In Charleston, conversation has centered around our own Carnival cruise ship, the Sunshine. Despite strong warnings from the Center for Disease Control, 2,441 passengers were able to disembark the ship on March 16 without being screened for signs of COVID-19. Now docked at Columbus Street Terminal for the foreseeable future, the Sunshine serves as a visual reminder of not only the risk posed to the health of our community, but to our environment as well. In recent weeks, there has been significant outcry over potential pollution from the Sunshine, including scrubber discharge and exhaust emissions that threaten both air and water quality. 

Although most major cruise lines have voluntarily paused operations until mid-May, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) issued a no-sail order on April 9 that will further delay cruise activities from resuming. Pointing to over 10 cruise ships in recent weeks that exacerbated the spread of the virus, the cruise ban is to remain in effect until COVID-19 no longer constitutes a public health emergency. 

The directive to cease operations coupled with less than favorable public perception has placed cruise companies in a very difficult financial situation. The ultimate fate of the cruise industry will depend on the duration of the pandemic and people’s willingness to board the ships that have now become grim symbols of contagion. Experts predict cruise travel will be forever changed as a result.   

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the far-reaching impacts the cruise industry has on our city and region. The Preservation Society feels this is the right time for the community to take a step back and reassess the role we want cruise to play in Charleston’s future. 

As other communities around the world grapple with the same question, here is a snapshot of recent local, national, and international headlines covering cruise issues during the COVID-19 pandemic: 

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