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Cruise industry nears shutdown as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian suspend operations

March 13, 2020
5 min read
Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship, Norwegian Encore, has room for 4,004 passengers at double occupancy.
Cruise industry nears shutdown as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian suspend operations
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information about additional lines suspending operations. It originally published on March 13.

Several of the world's biggest cruise lines including Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises announced on Friday they were suspending operations in all or significant parts of the world, citing the new coronavirus outbreak.

The late afternoon and evening announcements, which also came from Celebrity Cruises, Holland America, Seabourn Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Costa Cruises, will result in the shutdown of a large percentage of the world's cruise business.

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The lines join a list of nearly a dozen other ocean and river cruise companies that have announced plans to suspend operations since Wednesday, when President Donald Trump announced travel restrictions between Europe and the U.S. in a national address.

Other lines that have announced a halt to operations over the past two days include Princess Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Viking and Windstar Cruises.

Related: Alaska cruise season could be postponed as Canada bans big ships

The halt to operations are temporary and of varying lengths. Some are worldwide shutdowns. Others only are regional. Royal Caribbean and its sister line, Celebrity Cruises, only are stopping trips out of the U.S., and only for 30 days, starting with Saturday departures. Norwegian and its sister brands Regent and Oceania have canceled all sailings worldwide departing today through April 11. The halt to operations at Holland America and Seabourn also is worldwide.

MSC Cruises has suspended operations in North America, the Mediterranean, the Persian Gulf and Asia through the end of April. MSC Cruises ships still in operation in South America, and South African sailings will end operations at the end of the current itineraries, the company said.

In an evening tweet, President Trump said Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC Cruises had acted at his request. In a statement about the shutdowns sent to media about 30 minutes later, the main trade group for the cruise industry, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) said the lines acted voluntarily.

“CLIA cruise line members are voluntarily and temporarily suspending operations from the U.S. as we work to address this public health crisis,” CLIA president and CEO Kelly Craighead was quoted as saying in the statement.

“This is an unprecedented situation," Craighead said. "Our industry has taken responsibility for protecting public health for more than 50 years, working under the guidance of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and prides itself on its ability to deliver exceptional vacation experiences for guests, as well as meaningful employment opportunities for crew. This has been a challenging time, but we hope that this decision will enable us to focus on the future and a return to normal as soon as possible.”

For the most part, the lines said voyages that already are underway will be completed. In some cases, trips may end early, with lines offering passengers assistance in traveling home.

In statements accompanying the announcements, cruise line executives cited the gravity of the public health crisis gripping America and the world.

“The safety, security and well-being of our guests and crew is our highest priority,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. “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.”

Related: Travel restrictions, port closures put Europe cruise season in doubt

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Carnival didn't mention compensation plans for passengers on the affected cruises in their announcements.

Norwegian and its two sisters, Regent and Oceania, said passengers on the canceled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit equal to 125% of the amount they paid for the cruise. The credit can be applied toward any future cruise through Dec. 31, 2022.

Holland America said passengers on three cruises scheduled to depart this weekend would receive a 100% refund plus a 100% future cruise credit. Passengers on later cruises that are being canceled will be contacted with their refund options.

Seabourn is offering passengers on canceled sailings the option of a full refund or a 125% refund of the fare paid in the form of a future cruise credit. The credit can be used through Dec. 31, 2021.

Additional resources for traveling during the coronavirus outbreak:

Featured image by NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE

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