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America's favorite cruise lines put a voluntary moratorium on cruising until at least November

Aug. 05, 2020
5 min read
Royal Caribbean ship
America's favorite cruise lines put a voluntary moratorium on cruising until at least November
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The restart of cruising in North America has been pushed back until at least November.

The main trade group for the cruise industry, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), on Wednesday announced that all its members operating oceangoing ships would extend their suspension of cruises in U.S. waters until Oct. 31.

The announcement means another wave of cancellations is on the way from lines such as Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises. The two brands have canceled sailings in North America through the end of September but still have trips on the books for October and beyond.

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Nearly every major cruise line in the world is a member of CLIA. Exceptions include Viking and several small-ship specialists such as UnCruise Adventures and Lindblad Expeditions.

CLIA cited the ongoing coronavirus pandemic in making the announcement.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a "no-sail" order for cruise ships in U.S. waters that is set to expire at the end of September. But many industry watchers expect the agency to extend the order in the coming weeks.

Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, one of the world's biggest cruise ships, was scheduled to undergo a major makeover this year. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean).
Until this week, Royal Caribbean only had canceled sailings out of U.S. ports through the end of September. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean).

"This is a difficult decision as we recognize the crushing impact that this pandemic has had on our community and every other industry," CLIA said in a statement. "However, we believe this proactive action further demonstrates the cruise industry’s commitment to public health and willingness to voluntarily suspend operations in the interest of public health and safety."

CLIA said its member lines would continue to monitor the situation and would revisit a possible further extension of their pause to operations on or before Sept. 30.

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"At the same time, should conditions in the U.S. change, and it becomes possible to consider short, modified sailings, we would consider an earlier restart," the association added.

The extended shutdown does not apply to small ships designed to carry fewer than 250 passengers and crew. Such vessels are exempt from the CDC's no-sail order.

Some major lines already had canceled all sailings through the end of October in advance of Friday's announcement from CLIA. Just a week ago, Norwegian Cruise Line and its sister brands, Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises, canceled all sailings through Oct. 31. The move came just a week after one of North America's biggest cruise operators, Princess Cruises, canceled most departures through mid-December.

Minutes after the CLIA announcement on Wednesday, cruise giant Carnival said it had canceled all sailings through the end of October.

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

The industrywide decision to push back the restart of cruising in North America comes as some cruising resumes in Europe and other parts of the world where coronavirus case counts have fallen more steeply than in North America.

Several small European cruise operators including Hurtigruten and SeaDream Yacht Club have restarted sailings out of German and Norwegian ports in recent weeks. So has German cruise operator TUI Cruises. But some of the lines already are running into trouble. Hurtigruten and SeaDream in recent days both have had to cancel trips after passengers and crew on their ships tested posted for COVID-19.

One small U.S. cruise operator, UnCruise Adventures, resumed sailings in Alaska on Saturday with a single ship but ended the voyage early just three days later when a passenger tested positive for COVID-19. UnCruise has since canceled all remaining Alaska sailings for the year.

UnCruise Adventures was the first U.S. cruise operator to attempt a return to operations since cruise lines worldwide halted departures in March. The company operates very small, adventure-focused vessels that are exempt from the CDC “no-sail” order.

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Featured image by A Royal Caribbean ship at sea. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)