[Updated] CLIA Members Suspend Cruises From U.S. Ports for 30 Days

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Published Mar 13, 2020 5:34 PM by The Maritime Executive

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he has asked four major cruise operators to voluntarily suspend cruise ship operations from U.S. seaports for a period of 30 days. 

"At my request, effective midnight tonight, Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC have all agreed to suspend outbound cruises for thirty days," Trump said. "It is a great and important industry - it will be kept that way!" 

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) confirmed the voluntary suspension in a statement Friday afternoon. “We do not take this decision lightly, and we want the traveling public to know in no uncertain terms the commitment of this industry to putting people first,” said Adam Goldstein, CLIA Global Chairman. “During this time, we will continue to work with the CDC and others to prepare for resumption of sailings when it is appropriate. We know the travel industry is a huge economic engine for the United States and when our ships once again sail, our industry will be a significant contributor to fueling the economic recovery.”

The decision will have an effect in many parts of the United States and abroad, as the cruise industry draws on a nationwide (and global) supply chain. Hoteliers, airlines, travel agents and other businesses that are fueled by tourism will also feel the impact. According to CLIA, the U.S. cruise industry supports about 420,000 jobs and generates about $50 billion in economic activity. 

President Trump indicated that federal support for the criose industry could be a possibility. “I can tell you it’s an industry that was very badly impacted by what’s going on with the virus, and it’s a great industry, it’s a very important industry,” he said at a press conference Friday. “And we will be helping them and we will be helping the airline industry if we have to, assuming we have to.” 

The agreement comes as the White House is ramping up federal efforts to control the spread of COVID-19, including new restrictions on overseas travel, measures to boost the availability of coronavirus testing and a declaration of national emergency. 

Multiple previous cancellations

Over the course of Thursday and Friday, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, Celestyal Cruises, Windstar and newcomer Virgin Voyages separately announced interruptions in their cruise operations due to the coronavirus outbreak, adding to previous announcements by Viking and Princess Cruises. Many of the announcements expand beyond the agreement announced by President Trump, either in duration or in geographic extent. 

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. - parent company for Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises - announced Friday that it is voluntarily suspending all cruise voyages embarking between March 13 and April 11, worldwide. So far, the company has not experienced any cases of COVID-19 aboard its brands' 28 vessels, and the suspension is aimed at contributing to global public health measures to control the disease. 

Norwegian, Oceana and Regent Seven Seas voyages that are currently under way will conclude. The guests will be disembarked as soon as possible and assisted with travel arrangements.

“The safety, security and well-being of our guests and crew is our highest priority. With the COVID-19 coronavirus impacting communities around the globe, we have enacted a voluntary temporary suspension of cruise voyages across our brands effective immediately,” said Frank Del Rio, president and chief executive officer of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. “We understand the inconvenience that this disruption may cause our guests and travel partners during these quickly evolving and challenging times, and we appreciate their understanding as we partner with local, state, federal and global agencies to combat the spread of COVID-19.”

Boutique operators cancel sailings

Windstar Cruises, a boutique cruise operator with six small vessels, announced that it will be suspending its voyages from March 14 through the end of April. Guests on canceled Windstar cruises will receive either a future cruise credit valued at 125 percent of all monies paid - valid for two years - or a refund equal to the amount paid on the Windstar booking. “After much thought, we believe we are making the most responsible decision we can during this coronavirus pandemic,” said Christopher Prelog, chief operating officer of Windstar Cruises.

Virgin Voyages, the newly launched cruise venture of Virgin Group, announced Friday that it has postponed the maiden voyage of its first cruise ship until August 7. The vessel's preview showcase tour program has been deferred until July 15. Virgin had already suspended two previous showcase events for the new Scarlet Lady in New York and Miami.

"Despite what we are facing, travel will always be a way for us to connect with one another and open ourselves up to new ideas and ways of thinking. So while this isn't the time for us to meet on board the spectacular Scarlet Lady, it will be soon," said Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin and Virgin Group's Sir Richard Branson in a joint statement.

UK operator Fred. Olsen has also announced a long hiatus, suspending oceangoing operations through May 23. "Along with many other cruise and travel companies, we are facing challenging and unprecedented times in our industry as a result of the ongoing global Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak," Fred. Olsen said in a statement. "As more ports across the world close to cruise ships, it is becoming more challenging for us to offer our guests the holiday experience that we promised them."

UK-based Cruise & Maritime Voyages has also confirmed a six-week suspension of all worldwide cruise operations, effective Friday. "Our top and overriding priority is the health and safety of our passengers and crew. As such, all CMV vessels will be returning to their disembarkation homeports in the UK and Germany with the repatriation of international passengers as required," CMV said in a statement. 

Four more Carnival brands cancel global operations

In addition to the previously-announced cancellations for cruises operated by its AIDA, Costa and Princess brands, Carnival Corporation announced Friday that its Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard North America, Holland America Line and Seabourn brands will suspend global operations for one month. 

"Through serving our many guests who still wanted to travel, we've stood with all the people in the port communities here in the U.S., and in the other places we sail, who are dependent on us for their livelihood," said Arnold Donald, CEO of Carnival Corporation. "And today we stand with the nation as we together seek to mitigate the spread."

Each of the brands is communicating with its customers individually about the effects of the pause. 

“In this unprecedented situation, we feel a pause is necessary,” said Rick Meadows, president of Carnival's Seabourn brand. “Through this action, it is our absolute intention to convey to our guests and the travel advisor community that we have the health and safety of all who travel with us as a top priority. Our pause should also reassure the hundreds of destinations we visit each year that we want to be responsible in our operations as we bring travelers into their communities each time we visit.”