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Carnival Cruise Line Crew Shortage Leads to Cancellations

Some popular onboard events won't be happening.

Carnival Cruise Line (CCL) - Get Carnival Corporation Report has struggled to keep its ships fully staffed. That's due to a number of reasons, including crew being lost due to covid, the extended time it takes to onboard crew members, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and some past crew simply not wanting to return to the company after the pandemic.

This problem is not unique to Carnival. Rival Royal Caribbean International (RCL) - Get Royal Caribbean Group Report has also experienced intermittent crew shortages while land-based hospitality businesses have also dealt with labor problems.

The cruise line has been upfront about these issues to make it clear to passengers that certain experiences might be different. Now, Carnival's brand ambassador John Heald has gone to Facebook to share some upcoming onboard changes the cruise line has made due to not having enough crew members.

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Both Carnival and Royal Caribbean run robust loyalty programs designed to entice customers to cruise on their lines repeatedly. The programs vary, but they both offer special events for members who hit various levels in the program.

Carnival calls its program "Very Important Fun Person” (VIFP) and passengers move up in the program by earning points for every night they sail. People with higher status levels get some added onboard perks, bragging rights, and access to special events. One of those perks has been suspended for now due to the staffing issues, CruiseHive reported. 

Normally cruises five nights or longer hold Diamond events -- parties for passengers who have achieved the Diamond level in the loyalty program. Those are very loyal passengers as Diamond requires 200 points (200 nights sailed in most cases).

Heald shared on his Facebook page that the Diamond parties have been canceled and Diamond-level guests will instead receive $50 of onboard credit. The cruise line has also canceled the Diamond/Platinum cocktail party and passengers who could have attended will instead receive two drink vouchers each.

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"This is, of course, because of staff shortages," Heald wrote. "Because of the situation with the U.S. government, who are themselves short-staffed, we have a massive backlog of visas that the crew need to come to the U.S. and on to the ships to work."

Carnival has canceled the loyalty events through the end of June but could extend that date if the problem persists.

Carnival Forced to Make More Onboard Changes

The cruise line has also stopped operating its Cucina Del Capitano Italian restaurant as well as the elite Chef’s Table dining experience, according to Cruise Hive. Those will also be closed through the end of June, if not longer.

On some ships, Cucina Del Capitano may open for lunch while some of its signature dishes may be served for free in the main dining room.

"Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy is working closely with the U.S. State Department, however, to expedite crew visas and improve onboard staffing, and it is hoped that the situation will improve quickly in the coming weeks and closures and onboard cancelations will end as the cruise industry moves into the busy summer season," the cruise news website reported.

A closed restaurant may not impact whether people choose to cruise or not. Loyalty programs, however, have very devoted customer bases who expect the perks they are used to.

Royal Caribbean has also tweaked its loyalty offerings due to the pandemic. It used to offer Diamond and higher-level members free drinks in the Diamond Lounge during an early evening happy hour. Instead, it now offers 4-6 free drinks per day depending upon your loyalty level.