Cruise Lines Extend Suspension Past One-Year Mark
While there was excitement that the recent actions by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were paying the way for the resumption of cruising, the cruise lines have realized that the suspension will pass the one-year mark before much of the industry resumes. Major cruise lines are reworking their schedules and yet again extending the cancellations to reflect the current realities.
With the feared second wave of the virus appearing and numerous steps to complete before the first cruises would be permitted, many of the cruise lines have yet again moved their target date for resuming cruises. Some are still discussing the idea of running the trial trips required by the CDC early in 2021, but most of the restart dates have been delayed.
The brands of Carnival Corporation became the latest to extend their cancellations. Carnival Cruise Line earlier this week canceled all sailings through January 31, 2021, with many embarkation ports extended till the end of February or March 2021. Holland America Line and Princess Cruises went further canceling all cruises through March 31, 2021.
One element of the CDC’s actions was a limit on cruises of seven days or less. This was especially challenging for the premium and deluxe cruise ships which offer longer trips often catering to an older or more affluent passenger. Carnival’s luxury small ship cruise line Seabourn Cruise Line canceled voyages out till November of 2021, while both Holland America and Princess also canceled longer sailings till November 2021. Many of the other cruise lines simply removed longer sailing from their websites uncertain when the CDC and industry would be ready to operate those cruises.
Among the cruise lines that had been able to resume operations, many were also forced to scale back some of their cruises due to the recent travel restrictions reinstated in many parts of Europe. This week, the French cruise company Ponant, which operates smaller ships traditionally on expedition cruises, announced that it was suspending cruises for the remainder of 2020 in the Northern Hemisphere. Ponant had been one of the few cruise lines to resume limited sailings start in the summer of 2020 from France as well as in Norway and Iceland. Ponant joins SeaDream Yacht Club with canceled its Caribbean cruises for the remainder of 2020 after last week’s COVID-19 incident aboard its first Caribbean Cruise.
Despite the uncertainties, a few of the large North America cruise lines remain optimistic that they will be able to restart limited cruise operations early in 2021. Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said it hoped to run trial cruises aboard ships as early as January while Royal Caribbean International reported that more than 100,000 people had volunteered to sail on its trial cruises even before dates or details were announced.
In possibly the most optimistic indication that the cruise lines are preparing, several companies confirmed that they were planning to reposition cruise ships back to the United States. Disney Cruise Line, which had sent all of its ships to Europe, has the Disney Wonder in the mid-Atlantic showing an AIS destination of Port Canaveral, Florida followed by the Disney Fantasy. Holland America confirmed rumors that it was preparing to send six cruise ships back to the United States and Carnival Cruise Line, which had said it would keep its ships away from the US due to the CDC’s rules, is also reporting that it is repositioning cruise ships.
Despite the few positive indications, it is becoming increasingly clear that much of the cruise industry will have been out of service for a full year on the anniversary of the March 2020 suspension of global cruise operations.