Cruise restart pushed further back as 7 major lines cancel more sailings

Mar 9, 2021

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Cruising fans were hit with another wave of cancellations on Tuesday as seven major cruise lines pushed back their restart dates in all or parts of the world.

Perhaps the most notable announcement came from Royal Caribbean, the world’s largest cruise line, which extended its year-long halt to nearly all departures through early June. In doing so, Royal Caribbean is joining such cruise brands as Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line in giving up on the idea of a widespread May restart.

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Until Tuesday, Royal Caribbean only had canceled sailings through the end of April.

Royal Caribbean’s smaller sister brands Celebrity Cruises and Silversea on Tuesday also pushed back their restarts by a month to early June, while its soon-to-be-sold sister brand Azamara delayed its restart all the way through the start of July.

Three other lines — Holland America, Princess Cruises and Seabourn — canceled some sailings through the start of July.

The moves are a blow to fans of the lines who had hoped their most recently announced restart dates would hold. Many cruisers have been optimistic that the recent rollout of COVID vaccines and falling case counts would allow for at least some cruises in many parts of the world to take place in May and June.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

Royal Caribbean operates the world’s biggest cruise ships and is the world’s biggest cruise line. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

But it’s looking increasingly unlikely that there will be a meaningful amount of cruising in many parts of the world before July at the earliest.

In North America, in particular, cruise lines have been grappling with a road map for a return to cruising issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that lays out a long period of testing and approvals before cruising can resume.

Issued in October as a “framework for conditional sailing” order, the road map includes a testing period for new anti-coronavirus protocols on ships that has yet to begin. After that, cruise operators can apply for what the CDC is calling a Conditional Sailing Certificate in a process that could take an additional 60 days.

Cruise lines also face roadblocks to a return to cruising in the form of the many coronavirus-related travel restrictions that destinations around the world continue to impose.

Cruising has resumed in a very limited way over the past nine months in parts of Europe, led by Europe-based lines such as MSC Cruises and TUI Cruises. A handful of ships also have resumed sailings in Asia, including one Royal Caribbean vessel. But, so far, no line has successfully resumed sailings in North America.

In November, one small cruise company, SeaDream Yacht Club, attempted to resume voyages in the Caribbean out of Barbados with a small vessel. But the sailing did not go well. It ended with a COVID-19 outbreak and passengers quarantined in their cabins. The line subsequently canceled all remaining cruises for the winter season.

Royal Caribbean’s latest round of cancellations applies to all sailings departing through the end of May with the exception of a handful of departures in Asia that only will be open to local residents.

The new cruises that were canceled Tuesday at Holland America, Princess and Seabourn include all Europe departures through the end of June.

Princess also canceled departures to the Caribbean, Mexican Riviera and California Coast through the end of June. Princess now only has a handful of Alaska sailings still on its schedule for May and June. Otherwise, its schedule now shows no departures anywhere in the world until early July.

All cruise lines around the world halted departures in March of last year as the coronavirus outbreak grew and many have yet to restart operations. Carnival, Norwegian, Celebrity, Princess and Holland America are among the major lines that haven’t operated a single departure since March 2020.

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Featured image courtesy of Royal Caribbean

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