Service crew

Lack of crew forces delays return to service of Diamond Princess

Diamond Princess will return to service four months late due to crew shortages (file photo)

Posted on August 9, 2022 at 4:25 p.m. by

The Maritime Executive

Much attention continues to be given to struggles in the airline industry as major carriers face crew shortages, forcing them to cancel flights. The cruise industry has also been quietly adjusting its operations, in part due to a lack of crew and the challenges of re-staffing their ships after the nearly two-year hiatus in operations.

Princess Cruises announced yesterday that it was canceling 11 upcoming cruises between September and November aboard its cruise ship the diamond princess due to the challenges associated with personnel turnover on the company’s ships. The 115,875 gross ton cruise ship was set to become one of the last in the Princess fleet to return to service from September 1 departing Los Angeles. With the sapphire princess also due to the restart of cruises in September, Princess is expected to have its entire fleet of 15 cruise ships in service for the first time since March 2020.

“Over the past year, we have operated hundreds of cruises thanks to the tens of thousands of our Princess team members who have joined our fleet to deliver exceptional Princess vacations. However, like others in the global industry of the voyage, we encountered labor issues,” Princess wrote in a letter to travelers booked on upcoming cruises.

Princess cites increasing occupancy rates on board its cruise ships as one of the challenges it faces. Canceling trips until November 13, Princess said: ‘This will provide
us with the extra time needed to overcome our workforce challenges.

The diamond princess when fully operational, it carries a crew of approximately 1,100. The cruise ship can accommodate 2,670 passengers based on double cabin occupancy. The cruise ship had recently repositioned itself from Singapore to Los Angeles in preparation for its return to service. In 2020, the diamond princess received worldwide attention when the ship was quarantined by the Japanese in one of the first outbreaks of COVID-19 aboard a cruise.

Passengers booked on cruises that were to sail from San Diego to Mexico are being offered alternative cruises. The company is offering a $100 onboard credit to passengers who transfer to a similar cruise aboard the Discovery Princess sailing from Los Angeles to Mexico.

This is not the first time that cruise lines have been forced to delay a ship’s return or cancel cruises due to staffing issues. Princess sister brand P&O Cruises, also owned by Carnival Corporation, idled its cruise ship on Arcadia between April and July 2022 due to staff shortage. The company said it would transfer crew from the Arcadia to fill openings on board its other cruise ships also operating in the UK market.

Faced similar problems attracting and training new crew members. other cruise lines have taken different approaches. Carnival Cruise Line announced earlier this year that it would suspend certain onboard amenities on its cruise ships, including closing its Italian specialty restaurant, reducing options on menus and canceling activities such as a great tea and the chocolate buffet.

In addition to the challenges of recruiting replacement crew, Carnival cited more complex travel routines, for example. They said there was a backlog of paperwork, with visas taking longer to obtain. Carnival Cruise Line said it was working with the US State Department to expedite visa processing to alleviate its staffing issues.