Princess Cruises extends cancellations for nearly two more months

May 12, 2021

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Princess Cruises is the latest line to reign in plans for a summer restart.

The world’s fifth-largest cruise line on Wednesday canceled nearly all its departures through Aug. 21, citing uncertainty about whether it would get approval to restart operations in the coming months from government regulators.

Until Wednesday, the 14-ship brand only had canceled sailings across the board through the end of June.

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In making the announcement, Princess on Wednesday said it still hoped to restart Alaska cruises in July in a small way with up to two vessels sailing out of Seattle.

Princess is one of the leaders in Alaska cruising, but it’s currently being blocked by sailing in the state by both U.S. and Canadian regulators.

The Alaska cruise season is very short, lasting roughly from May through September, and Princess already has canceled most of its Alaska sailings for the year.

“Princess continues its discussion with various [U.S.] and Canadian government officials to try to preserve a portion of the Alaska 2021 cruise season,” the line said in a statement accompanying its announcement.

Like many lines, Princess hasn’t operated a single cruise departure since March of 2020, when the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic.

Cruise lines are struggling to restart operations in many parts of the world due to travel restrictions imposed by various countries, states and local entities.

In the U.S., the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been blocking cruise ships from sailing out of U.S. ports for more than a year in an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Last week, the CDC issued new guidelines for a cruising restart in U.S. waters that suggested a concrete path to a cruising comeback. But the guidelines left many cruise executives flummoxed.

“We continue to have constructive discussions with the CDC but still have many questions that remain unanswered,” Princess president Jan Swartz said in a statement accompanying Wednesday’s announcement. “We are working diligently to resume sailing in the U.S. and meet the CDC guidelines.”

Swartz said the company appreciated the continued patience of customers while it worked to resume sailings.

“We know our guests are just as eager as we are to begin sailing,” she said.

Princess’s announcement comes as the prospects for a July or even an August restart for cruising out of U.S. ports become dimmer. In recent days, executives at Princess rival Norwegian Cruise Line have said there’s now no chance they could restart in July, given the time it will take to prepare vessels for service once regulators approve of a cruising restart.

In addition, Princess sister brand Carnival Cruise Line this week canceled a wide swath of cruises through the end of July.

Still, while a restart of cruising out of U.S. ports in the early- to mid-summer appears increasingly iffy, many lines are moving ahead with plans to restart sailings in the coming months in other parts of the globe — most notably, the Mediterranean.

In recent weeks, nearly half a dozen major cruise brands including Norwegian and Celebrity Cruises have announced plans to resume Mediterranean sailings out of Piraeus over the next three months.

The restarts include the first Silversea sailings in 15 months, starting on June 18, and the first Seabourn sailings in 16 months, starting on July 3.

The restarts are happening as Greece moves forward aggressively with a plan to reopen widely to tourists in advance of the summer travel season, and other countries around the Mediterranean get closer to broader reopenings to tourists, too.

Several lines including Crystal Cruises, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean also have announced plans to restart Caribbean sailings in the coming months with trips out of non-U.S. ports such as Nassau in the Bahamas.

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Featured image courtesy of Princess Cruises. 

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