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Is cruising done until 2021? This cruise line thinks so

July 01, 2020
5 min read
Is cruising done until 2021? This cruise line thinks so
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It's official: Cruising is canceled for 2020.

Well, at least for one line.

Greece-based Celestyal Cruises on Tuesday became the first significant cruise operator to cancel all remaining sailings for the year. It said it wouldn't resume service until March 6, 2021.

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The two-ship line, which specializes in Eastern Mediterranean voyages, is making the move in the wake of signals from European Union officials that American travelers may not be able to enter Europe for many months.

Celestyal relies on a significant number of Americans and other international travelers to fill its ships.

“We were optimistic that we would be able to resume our cruise operations later this summer," Leslie Peden, Celestyal's chief commercial officer, said in a statement. "However, given the prevailing uncertainty regarding travel restrictions through the balance of our operating season from our largest international source markets, coupled with the continuing discussions at the European Union level regarding the enhanced health protocols that will apply to EU cruise operations, we made the difficult but prudent decision to postpone resuming cruise operations until the scheduled start of our normal spring season next year."

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles

Celestyal's announcement came the same day the European Union confirmed that American travelers would be banned from Europe until further notice due to the high number of coronavirus cases in the United States.

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Celestyal normally only operates trips from March through December. Until Tuesday, it only had canceled sailings through July 30.

Like many lines, Celestyal until now had been canceling cruises in waves, a few weeks at a time. But Tuesday's announcement marked a significant shift in strategy. In one fell swoop, the line pushed back its return date by seven months.

Related: When will cruising resume? A line-by-line guide

The Celestyal Cruises ship Celestyal Crystal. (Photo courtesy of Celestyal Cruises)
The 1,200-passenger Celestyal Crystal is one of two vessels in the Celestyal Cruises fleet. (Photo courtesy of Celestyal Cruises)

"We felt that as a company, we have already put our travel partners and guests through enough date changes on when cruising could return safely," Peden said.

"We will now shift our full attention to developing both 2021 and 2022 business where we are already seeing encouraging signs of pent-up demand," he added.

Celestyal's announcement comes as a few small cruise ships -- mostly river ships -- begin to resume operations in Europe. But the cruise vessels restarting trips in Europe are catering to local travelers who, in many cases, can drive to the ships. The sailings aren't accessible to Americans and many other international travelers.

The ships restarting service also are limited in where they can go due to port restrictions. On Friday, Norwegian expedition cruise company Hurtigruten began 14-day sailings to Norway out of Hamburg, Germany, that -- for now, at least -- won't include a single port call. The trips are aimed at local German travelers who can reach Hamburg easily by car or train.

Cruising in Europe for Europeans only is resuming earlier than cruising in North America and some other regions due to Europe's success in reducing coronavirus case counts. Germany on Tuesday recorded just 498 cases of coronavirus. The United States recorded nearly 50,000 cases.

No cruise vessels have resumed operations in North America.

Celestyal's extended cancellations point to the difficulty that many lines that rely on international travelers will have in restarting operations in the coming months if barriers to international travel remain.

Many of the world's biggest cruise brands including Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises and Holland America have canceled all or most sailings into September or October. But that doesn't mean these lines will restart operations in the fall.

Executives at several of the biggest cruise companies have told TPG in recent weeks that a restart to cruising will depend on the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

Exclusive: Carnival Corp. CEO shares thoughts on the future of cruising

While Celeystal is the first significant line to cancel all sailings into 2021, several other brands have canceled trips on at least a few ships into next year.

Most notably, Windstar Cruises has canceled sailings on three of its six vessels into 2021. One of the line’s three sailing ships, Wind Star, isn't scheduled to return to service until January. Two of Windstar's three motor ships — Star Legend and Star Pride — are slated to restart operations in March and July 2021, respectively.

Celestyal is offering passengers on the canceled sailings the choice of a full refund or a credit for a future cruise in the amount of 120% of what they paid. Credits must be redeemed by Dec. 31, 2021 for a sailing departing before the end of 2022.

Related: Why you shouldn't take a voucher for a canceled cruise

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Featured image by The Celestyal Cruises ship Celestyal Olympia. (Photo courtesy of Celestyal Cruises)

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Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

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  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees