Carnival Corporation, the owner of P&O Australia, Princess, Carnival Cruises, Holland America and Seabourn, is planning a staggered return to cruising – though there is no word yet when Australia will see ships.

The global cruise giant, which usually has P&O and Princess vessels in Australia and New Zealand year round, will sail with fewer ships and a smaller number of passengers and will return region by region.

USA today quoted a Carnival Corp spokesperson as saying none of the company’s lines will sail “until at least early October”.

While Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have announced a joint committee to oversee their health protocols, Carnival has not yet announced plans for new measures to contain COVID-19 on its vessels.

But CEO Arnold Donald, in a significant departure from his rivals at Royal Caribbean and Norwegian, acknowledged his ships will not sail full.

“We will probably start at less than 50% occupancy as we work out details,” Mr Donald reportedly said.

Mr Donald gave the fullest briefing yet of the company’s position on a call to investors who have lent the company billions of dollars to keep it afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

He maintained that those lines which had come under fire during the coronavirus pandemic, like Princess which is the subject of a NSW commission of inquiry over cases aboard the Ruby Princess, were not suffering a slow down in bookings.

“Of course we will have work to do, but right now the brands are strong, the bookings are encouraging, and with the staggered start we’re going to have in the resumption of cruising, there should be plenty of pent-up, latent demand with previous cruisegoers to fill the ships,” he said.

AIDA, a line the company owns in Germany, is planning to resume cruising in August – without port calls. Almost all the guests on this line are German.

P&O Australia is more than 99% sourced from Australia and New Zealand, he revealed.

Mr Donald wasn’t concerned about attracting new cruisers, because the company had a global data base of 40 million to draw on and eight million passengers each year are regular repeat Carnival passengers.

He maintained that bookings for 2021 were still coming in, and only 40% of the June bookings were passengers using future cruise credits from cancelled itineraries.

In order to conserve funds, Carnival Corp had delayed the delivery 16 ships and 13 ships would leave the fleet – a cut back of almost 10 per cent.

The list includes the 1,546-passenger Pacific Dawn and the 1,260-passenger Pacific Aria. These ships will transfer to Cruise & Maritime Voyages.

Both P&O and Carnival Cruise lines are expecting refurbished ships in the next two years.