Norwegian Cruise Line cancels sailings on 8 ships as COVID-19 cases soar

Jan 5, 2022

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One of the world’s biggest cruise lines on Wednesday canceled a wide swath of its soon-to-depart voyages as COVID-19 cases around the world continue to soar.

In a notice posted on its website, Norwegian Cruise Line said it had canceled sailings as far out as April on eight vessels, including trips on many of its Florida-based and Hawaii-based ships.

The cancellations were announced just a day after Norwegian ended an 11-night voyage out of Miami one day after the trip had begun, citing COVID-19 cases among the ship’s crew. That sailing was taking place on the Miami-based line’s 2,394-passenger Norwegian Pearl.

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The cancellations come as cruise lines struggle along with all other types of travel providers to deal with the surge in COVID-19 cases sweeping the world. In the U.S., nearly 900,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday — nearly 10 times the number that were testing positive just a few weeks ago.

While cruise ships have recorded relatively few cases of COVID-19 over the past year, in part due to unusually strict health protocols, the number of passengers and crew testing positive on ships has been rising sharply in recent weeks along with the greater surge on land. The rise in cases on ships has led to disruptions to sailings as some ports have balked at allowing ships to call or tightened entry requirements to a point that has makes it difficult for ships to comply.

Some cruise ships also have had to contend with crew shortages that have resulted from the need to isolate crew who have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Norwegian cancellations announced Wednesday include:

  • The Norwegian Getaway departure of Jan. 5.
  • Norwegian Pearl departures through Jan. 14.
  • Norwegian Sky departures through Feb. 25.
  • Pride of America departures through Feb. 26.
  • Norwegian Jade departures through March 3.
  • Norwegian Star departures through March 19.
  • Norwegian Sun departures through April 19.
  • Norwegian Spirit departures through April 23.

The vessels account for nearly half of Norwegian’s 17-ship fleet.

Norwegian isn’t the only line beginning to cancel sailings this week as COVID-19 cases surge, though no other line has canceled sailings in such large numbers.

Oceania Cruises on Wednesday canceled all sailings of its 1,250-passenger, South America-based Marina scheduled for January and February, citing new “onerous and prohibitive travel restrictions” in Argentina related to COVID-19. Regent Seven Seas Cruises on Tuesday said it would not operate a 120-day around-the-world cruise on the 700-passenger Seven Seas Mariner that was supposed to start Wednesday in San Francisco.

Both Oceania and Regent are owned by the same parent company as Norwegian.

In addition, a Hong Kong-based Royal Caribbean ship, the 4,905-passenger Spectrum of the Seas, cut a sailing out of the city short early Wednesday after being ordered back to port by Hong Kong authorities due to worries about the spread of COVID-19. The next sailing of the vessel, scheduled for Thursday, has been canceled.

The cancellations follow news earlier this week that five Brazil-based cruise ships operated by MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises would shut down operations through Jan. 21, following disruptions to earlier sailings related to COVID-19 cases. Several European lines that cater to German-speaking travelers also have canceled sailings in recent days.

The wave of cancellations are the biggest since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, when the entire cruise industry shut down in a matter of days. Most of the world’s major cruise lines remained shut down for well more than a year afterwards.

Norwegian Sky cruise ship sailing from Miami during sunset
Sailings on Norwegian Sky have been canceled through the end of February. (Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)

For now, there is little talk in the industry of such a widespread shutdown. Even the lines that are canceling sailings have said they expected the ships to be back in operation soon.

In the case of one of the vessels, Seven Seas Mariner, the ship still will depart from San Francisco on Wednesday — just not on the same itinerary that it had been scheduled to sail.

Regent on Tuesday said the vessel would operate the initial segment of the canceled world cruise through the Panama Canal to Miami over the next 18 days. But after that, the line is replacing the remainder of the globe-circling voyage with four new, closer-to-home voyages out of Miami.

Regent isn’t using the world cancellation to describe its change of plans for Seven Seas Mariner, instead writing to passengers that it was “modifying” the world cruise. Still, it is effectively a cancellation as the ship no longer will travel around the world.

Related: Will I need a vaccine to cruise? A line-by-line guide

Regent said passengers booked on the original 120-day world cruise who go ahead with Wednesday’s truncated sailing and stay onboard for all of the new substitute voyages would receive a 30% refund of the fare they had paid. Passengers also have the option of just staying on board for the initial part of the new schedule, in which case they will get a pro-rated refund for the skipped days plus 15% of the total fare they had paid.

Seven Seas Mariner passengers also can say no to the revised itinerary, in which case they will receive a full refund of their fare.

Passengers on the canceled Norwegian sailings will receive a full refund, the line said. In addition, they’ll receive a future cruise credit in the amount of 10% of the fare that they had paid. The credit can be applied to any sailing through May 31, 2023.

After restarting operations around the world over the past year, cruise lines have implemented unusually strict health protocols that go far beyond what is typical at land-based resorts and on airplanes. Many lines require all passengers and crew to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and to undergo COVID-19 testing before boarding ships.

Passengers often also have to wear masks while onboard ships and keep socially distant.

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Featured photo of courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line. 

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