Cruise firm Carnival UK ‘to cut 450 jobs’ at Southampton HQ

The Carnival Panorama cruise ship docked at Long Beach, California.

The Carnival Panorama cruise ship docked at Long Beach, California.
Photograph: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Cruise company Carnival, which operates the P&O and Cunard lines, is understood to be planning to cut about 450 jobs at its UK arm, equal to more than one in four of its workforce.

The world’s largest cruise company employs about 1,600 people at its UK headquarters in Southampton. None of its ships have sailed since March. Workers who keep their jobs will be asked to accept a 20% pay cut until November.

P&O and Cunard announced in April that all sailings were suspended until 31 July because of travel restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. The cruise lines had originally planned to resume voyages in mid-May.

A Carnival UK spokesman would not confirm the number of planned redundancies, but said cuts were necessary “to ensure the future sustainability” of the business, and confirmed the company had begun a period of consultation with staff based in Southampton.

“It is necessary to make changes to our organisation to build a stable platform for the time we phase our ships back into service and for future growth,” said a Carnival UK spokesman.

Carnival UK has not yet announced when its ships will sail again, but confirmed it is planning a phased return to service with added safety measures onboard.

Carnival Corporation raised $6.25bn (£5bn) from investors in April by issuing new debt and equity, in order to stay afloat during the coronavirus crisis.

After months without sailing, the company’s US arm announced earlier in May that it plans to restart some North American operations on 1 August. Eight cruise ships in the Carnival line will initially depart from ports in Texas and Florida, once a no-sail order from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has expired.

Bookings for cruises on the company’s flagship Carnival ships jumped by 600% in the US following the announcement, according to travel company Cruise Planners, an increase of 200% on the same period in 2019. This is despite dozens of deaths on cruise ships during the early weeks of the pandemic.

Carnival’s Princess Cruises line was especially hard hit, with deaths and large numbers of infections on several of its vessels, and some passengers forced to quarantine on board for weeks.

The CDC repeatedly issued warnings that cruise travel spread the coronavirus outbreak around the world, and the US Congress has announced an investigation into Carnival’s parent company, Carnival Corporation, looking at why it did not act more quickly to protect its passengers and staff.

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