Amid coronavirus uncertainty, some cruise lines now are canceling sailings well into the fall

Jun 13, 2020

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It’s been a tough week for cruise fans eager to get back on the high seas.

Even as a handful of small river lines and small-ship cruise specialists moved ahead with plans to resume sailings in the coming weeks, some of the world’s biggest cruise operators pushed back their restart dates well into the fall.

Among the most notable announcements in recent days came from Cunard Line, the storied brand that operates the iconic Queen Mary 2. The three-ship line on Tuesday said the iconic vessel and its smaller sister, Queen Victoria, wouldn’t resume sailings until at least Nov. 1. Cunard said its third ship, Queen Elizabeth, will remain out of service until at least Nov. 23.

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Until this week, Cunard only had canceled sailings through the end of August.

Also pushing pack its return to service in a major way was luxury line Silversea. The line on Wednesday said three of its seven vessels — Silver Explorer, Silver Cloud and Silver Wind — wouldn’t resume operations until at least the second half of October or November. A return to service for its four other vessels — Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper, Silver Muse and Silver Spirit — has been pushed back to September.

Two more Silversea vessels scheduled to debut this year — Silver Origin and Silver Moon — are now scheduled to debut on Aug. 22 and Oct. 2, respectively.

Related: The most exciting new cruise ships of 2020 

Until this week, most Silversea ships were scheduled to resume operations in July.

In addition:

  • Holland America on Thursday canceled September and October sailings out of Vancouver to the Panama Canal, Pacific Northwest, Mexico, Hawaii, South America and Japan. The cancellations affect sailings on six of Holland America’s 15 ships. The line also canceled two Hawaii sailings out of San Diego scheduled to take place in January and February of 2021.
  • Crystal Cruises on Wednesday canceled all river cruises through Sept. 6. Until this week, the line only had canceled river sailings through the end of June. Crystal also recently canceled all New England and Canada sailings scheduled to take place on Crystal Serenity (one of its two main ocean ships) through the end of October. The ship will reposition to Miami with the hopes of starting sailings out of that port on Oct. 1.
  • Disney Cruise Line on Monday canceled all remaining Europe departures through Oct. 2. Until this week, the line only had canceled Europe sailings into July. Disney also canceled all sailings from Canada for the rest of the year.

What most of these lines canceling sailings deep into the fall have in common is that they specialize in far-flung itineraries around the world that often involve stops at multiple countries and require long-distance travel to reach. Most of the lines also rely on a mix of passengers from multiple countries to fill their ships.

In this new era of coronavirus-related travel restrictions — Americans aren’t welcome in most European countries right now, for instance — operating far-flung voyages to multiple countries that are designed to appeal to a wide mix of passengers has become a logistical challenge, cruise executives say. The situation is made even more complex by the fact that some ports have announced plans to reopen to cruise ships while others have said they would remain closed for an extended time.

In an announcement of its newest cancellations, Holland America, for instance, specifically cited the expectation of “travel and port restrictions continuing for the near future due to global health concerns” as a factor in its decision.

Related: How to book a cruise using points and miles 

Holland America is particularly known for its wide-ranging itineraries. With its new cancellations, the line now has canceled every sailing on its schedule through Sept. 27. Only nine of its 15 vessels now are scheduled to return to service by the end of October.

The Holland America cancellations include every sailing for the rest of the year in Europe, Alaska and the Canada/New England region.

Other lines that have canceled all or most sailings well into the fall include Seabourn, Princess Cruises, Windstar Cruises and startup line Virgin Voyages.

The small river lines and small-ship cruise specialists that are moving ahead with plans to restart cruising in coming weeks generally are offering easy-to-reach sailings aimed at a local market that often focus on a single country. As a result, they face fewer of the travel restriction hurdles that lines offering more wide-ranging, multicountry voyages face.

In North America, the first cruise by any line is scheduled to take place on June 20. Small-ship cruise specialist American Cruise Lines plans to resume river sailings in the Pacific Northwest with a single ship, the 90-cabin American Song.

American Cruise Lines also is eyeing a resumption of cruises on the Mississippi River and in Alaska by the end of July with similarly small ships.

Small vessels such as American Song are exempt from a 100-day “no-sail” order for cruise ships sailing in U.S. waters issued in April by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The order only applies to cruise ships that carry more than 250 passengers and crew.

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Feature image courtesy of SeaDream Yacht Club.

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