We might be just weeks away from a restart to North American cruising

Oct 6, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Are we just weeks away from a restart of cruising in North America?

The leaders of the world’s biggest cruise companies were optimistic about the possibility on Tuesday during the keynote opening session of Seatrade Cruise Virtual, an online version of the cruise industry’s annual meetup.

“My confidence level, or my optimism level, is very high,” Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO Richard Fain said when asked about the probability that cruising from the U.S. would resume by the end of the year.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s new cruise newsletter.

Carnival Corporation president and CEO Arnold Donald said his optimism level that cruising out of U.S. ports would resume by year’s end was at a “4.5 or 4.9” on a 5-point scale.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings president and CEO Frank Del Rio also was relatively upbeat about the possibility, though he was a tad less definitive.

“It’s coming soon,” Del Rio said of a North American restart. He suggested a timeline that might see cruising at his brands resume in late December or early January.

“Whether it’s (on) Dec. 22 or Jan. 3, I think we’re in the ballpark.”

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles

Norwegian Cruise Line's 3,998-passenger Norwegian Encore. (Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)
Norwegian Cruise Line has canceled departures through the end of October. (Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

All of the executives noted the progress the industry had made in recent months developing new health and safety procedures to keep COVID-19 off ships when cruising resumes. The procedures include mandatory COVID tests for all passengers and crew, limitations on touring in ports and social distancing requirements on vessels.

Many of the procedures already have been implemented on a handful of cruise ships that have resumed sailings in Europe, and so far they have worked well.

“I think we have put together … a set of procedures that really puts us in a position to say, ‘yes, we can now come to the point where we can provide a healthy cruise,” Fain said. “We’re going to do it slowly; we’re going to start with test cruises, and then a few shorter cruises, and gradually build up as we build up our experience. (But) I do think that is going to start this year.”

More Seatrade news: One cruise line may never bring back the buffet

Royal Caribbean Group is the parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea. Carnival Corporation is the parent company of Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America, Seabourn and five overseas brands.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings is the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

The executives noted that a few hurdles remain to restarting cruising in North America before year’s end, the biggest of which is convincing the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lift its “no-sail” order for cruise ships in U.S. waters.

More Seatrade news: One cruise line is making plans to take you to Chernobyl

The order currently is scheduled to expire on Oct. 30 but could be extended.

Even if the CDC doesn’t extend the order into November or December, getting ships back into operation isn’t a rapid process, Del Rio said.

“People have to understand that it takes time to stand up a ship, especially ships that have been now laid up for six-plus months,” Del Rio said. “It is not turning on a light switch.”

Del Rio noted that before Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings can restart sailings, it will have to repatriate crew to its ships and also make a number of onboard changes to comply with COVID-related health and safety policies that the industry is implementing.

“We believe that it will take at least 60 days to stand up a vessel,” he said, suggesting that was the reason the company on Monday canceled all of its November sailings.

“If you just count (the days) with your fingers … it’s literally impossible for us to operate in the month of November. Perhaps others can or will, but we’re looking at post-November as a potential start date if everything else comes along.”

Related: The ultimate guide to Norwegian Cruise Line

Royal Caribbean, Carnival and several other major brands still have sailings on their schedules for November. Carnival in recent days canceled most of its departures through early January but kept November and December sailings on its schedule out of two Florida ports: PortMiami and Port Canaveral.

The executives noted they wouldn’t start back up until they believe they can do so safely.

“We’re eager to get back into work,” Fain said. “But we’re not going to do it until we’re all confident that it is safe and healthy.”

Fain suggested that the resumption of some cruising in Europe in recent months had given his company increased confidence that they can restart cruising safely in North America.

“The sailings in Europe, which have been so successful, also serve as a test for us,” he said. “We can see what’s happened, (and) we can see what’s working.”

Fain said the company’s objective since it started planning for a cruising comeback was to “do this in a way that makes being on a ship as safe or safer than being in your home town.”

To do that, he noted, cruise lines plan to do some extraordinary things, he said. He specifically called out the plan to have all passengers tested for COVID-19 before boarding.

“No other travel industry (segment) does it,” he said. “Not airlines. Nothing. I don’t know of any other industry in the world that does 100% testing.”

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image courtesy of Royal Caribbean

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. Plus earn up to $50 in statement credits towards grocery store purchases within your first year of account opening.
  • Earn 2X points on dining including eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out and travel. Plus, earn 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on eligible orders over $12 for a minimum of one year with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get up to $60 back on an eligible Peloton Digital or All-Access Membership through 12/31/2021, and get full access to their workout library through the Peloton app, including cardio, running, strength, yoga, and more. Take classes using a phone, tablet, or TV. No fitness equipment is required.
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.