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A shift on COVID-19 vaccination thinking at Carnival Cruise Line?

Christine Duffy spoke from Port Canaveral with the newly arrived Mardi Gras as the backdrop
Could Carnival Cruise Line's prior stance on not mandating COVID-19 vaccination for passengers be changing?

'While there is a path for unvaccinated [travelers], we really don't think the protocols will work to allow us to deliver the guest experience that we want to be able to do. So I think right now it does look iike people will have to be vaccinated,' Carnival President Christine Duffy told 'Good Morning America' on Friday.

Duffy said protocols are still being worked out with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other authorities.

Just a few weeks ago, Duffy had indicated Carnival didn't plan to require vaccination because there's no mandate for any other business to do that and Carnival carries so many children.

But much has changed since then, with the CDC giving cruise lines the discretion to allow fully vaccinated crew and passengers to forgo masks and even social distancing in numerous circumstances. Those who are vaccinated on ships with 95% vaccinated travelers don't have to wear masks or distance in any areas.

And when Carnival announced plans for an Alaska season this summer following passage of the Alaska Tourism Restoration Act, it said the Carnival Miracle cruises will carry fully vaccinated passengers.

What about children under 12?

About children under 12 being able to cruise, Duffy told 'Good Morning America': ''While we have no definitive answers today that we can share, we are optimistic that we'll eventually be able to welcome all of our families with kids, of course, on board.'

Proof of vaccination

Asked how people will prove they've been vaccinated, Duffy said: 'We're working with some technology that may allow passengers to upload their vaccine information ahead of the cruise. But there's always the old-fashioned way where people will arrive at the terminal and have to show their proof of vaccination.'

This seemingly would put Carnival at odds with Florida's law banning 'vaccine passports.'

Seatrade Cruise News reached out to Carnival for clarification but did not immediately hear back.

Mardi Gras's stateside arrival

Duffy spoke from Port Canaveral with Mardi Gras as the backdrop. The first cruise ship in the Americas powered by LNG, it is also the first ship to sport a roller-coaster.

Delivered by Meyer Turku in December, Mardi Gras — the Carnival brand's largest vessel at 180,000gt — had been waiting in Barcelona to proceed stateside.

Port Canaveral-based Carnival Freedom and Carnival Liberty joined Mardi Gras as it made its way along the channel, watched by more than 1,500 people lining Jetty Park.

Welcome reception

Duffy, Carnival Corp. Chairman Micky Arison, CEO Arnold Donald and COO Josh Weinstein joined Canaveral Port Authority CEO Capt. John Murray, along with 300 travel advisors, partners, dignitaries and guests at a welcome reception.

'Mardi Gras has been five years in the making and today’s arrival is a historic milestone for our company, not to mention a truly emotional moment for everyone here at Carnival Cruise Line,' Duffy said.

Custom-built Cruise Terminal 3

'For nearly four years we have been working hard to prepare for Mardi Gras,' Murray added. 'As we welcome home this magnificent ship to Port Canaveral, we are filled with pride to see her at berth at our beautiful Cruise Terminal 3.'

At $155m, the 187,000-square-foot Terminal 3 was the single largest construction project in Port Canaveral's history.

Carnival will now begin the process of ramping up Mardi Gras’ crew to a full contingent of 1,750 in preparation to enter passenger service.