Some of the year’s hottest new cruise ships will be delayed due to coronavirus

Apr 22, 2020

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It’s shaping up to be a tough year for cruise fans who only will travel on the hottest new ships.

Even if cruising resumes relatively soon, which seems increasingly unlikely, some of the year’s most-anticipated new ships won’t be in operation as early as expected, because cruise lines increasingly are pushing back planned unveilings for new vessels.

Luxury line Crystal Cruises, for instance, has delayed the long-awaited debut of its first expedition ship, the 200-passenger Crystal Endeavor, until at least November. Named one of the most exciting new cruise ships of 2020 by TPG, Endeavor originally was scheduled to begin service in August.

Visit TPG’s guide to all coronavirus news and updates

Also pushing back the debut of a major new ship is Princess Cruises. The line has delayed the debut of its newest vessel, the 3,660-passenger Enchanted Princess, until at least August. Enchanted Princess originally was set to be christened in late June.

Celebrity Cruises, Virgin Voyages and Lindblad Expeditions also have postponed inaugural sailings for new ships this year. So have a long list of river cruise ship operators.

In some cases, the delays are due to a coronavirus-related slowdown of work at the shipyards where the vessels are under construction. Some shipyards have shut down completely. In other instances, the ship are unable to sail due to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

Related: 9 ways cruising will be different when it starts up again 

Princess president Jan Swartz, in a video message posted last week on Twitter, blamed the Enchanted Princess delay on “the significant impact the COVID-19 outbreak has had on Italy and our shipbuilding partners.” Enchanted Princess is being built at a Fincantieri shipyard in Monfalcone, Italy (not far from Venice) that’s been closed for many weeks due to Italy’s countrywide lockdown.

Crystal said Crystal Endeavor’s delay is due to the temporary closure of the MV Werften shipyard in Germany where the vessel has been under construction since 2018.

“We know that, like us, our guests have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to explore anew with Crystal aboard this groundbreaking ship, and we deeply regret that this change has become necessary and has disrupted our guests’ travel plans,” Crystal president and CEO Tom Wolber said in a statement announcing Endeavor’s delay.

Among the new cruise vessels that have been delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak:

Scarlet Lady

The first ship for start-up cruise line Virgin Voyages is ready to sail. Construction was completed in February. But Scarlet Lady won’t operate its inaugural voyage with paying passengers until at least Aug. 7, Virgin Voyages has said. Scarlet Lady’s first trips with paying passengers originally were scheduled for March.

Celebrity Apex

The second ship in Celebrity’s groundbreaking Edge Class-series also is ready to go. But it remains tied up in the French shipyard where it was built. Celebrity took delivery of Apex from the Chantiers de l’Atlantique facility in St. Nazaire, France in late March, just as coronavirus cases were exploding worldwide. But the line never moved the vessel. All inaugural events and sailings were canceled, and Apex’s new inaugural voyage has yet to be set.

Crystal Endeavor

The inaugural voyage of Crystal’s first expedition ship originally was scheduled for Aug. 10. It’s now set for Nov. 14.

National Geographic Endurance

Billed as the world’s most advanced polar expedition ship, this is another vessel that’s ready to go. Its construction was completed in March. But operator Lindblad canceled inaugural voyages in late March and April due to the coronavirus outbreak. It’s unclear when it will begin sailing with paying passengers.

Enchanted Princess

Construction has been delayed on the newest Princess ship due to the coronavirus outbreak, and it’s unclear when work will be completed. The ship originally was scheduled for delivery in June. Princess says a new delivery date has not been set for now. The line has canceled all voyages on the ship through July 31.

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Other major new ships due in 2020 that could be affected by coronavirus-related work slowdowns include Carnival Cruise Line’s much-awaited, 180,000-ton Mardi Gras. This is the vessel that famously will have a roller coaster on its top deck — a cruise industry first.

Mardi Gras has been under construction at the Meyer Turku shipyard in Turku, Finland, since late 2018. Its maiden voyage currently is scheduled Nov. 14.

In recent weeks, the first 19 departures of Mardi Gras scheduled through March 20, 2021 have disappeared from Carnival’s website. But the sailings still are on, according to a spokesperson for Carnival. The spokesperson told TPG the sailings have disappeared from Carnival’s booking engine because the line is capping capacity on them, resulting in them showing as “sold out.”

The first Mardi Gras sailing still available to book on Carnival’s website is on March 27, 2021.

The arrival of Mardi Gras already has been pushed back once. The ship originally was scheduled to debut in August of this year, but late last year it’s arrival was delayed to November.

A spokesperson for the Meyer Turku shipyard told The Points Guy the coronavirus outbreak has had an impact on the facility but work continues.

“We are still in operation, with understandable reductions in production volume,” Meyer Turku spokesperson Tapani Mylly said. “Work on Mardi Gras is continuing at the moment.”

This year also has seen a major delay of the first cruise vessel from Ritz-Carlton.

The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection, the new cruising arm of the upscale hotel company, announced in March it had pushed back the debut of its 298-passenger Evrima by 10 months to April 2021.

But the Evrima delay is unrelated to the coronavirus outbreak. The Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection has encountered ongoing problems at Hijos de J. Barreras, the shipyard in Vigo, Spain, where Evrima has been under construction for more than a year.

Related: 5 reasons you might not want to book a cruise on a brand new ship 

Evrima originally was scheduled to begin sailing in February of this year, but its arrival already had been delayed by four months, to June 14 before the latest delay was announced.

The coronavirus outbreak also has caused significant delays to major ship renovation projects that had been scheduled for this year. Among the projects that are on hold for now is a massive, eight-week-long “amplification” of Royal Caribbean‘s Allure of the Seas — one of the world’s biggest cruise ships. At $165 million, it was to have been one of the most expensive overhauls of a ship ever.

Major makeovers of Carnival and Windstar Cruises also have been delayed.

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Featured image courtesy of Princess Cruises.

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