World cruise cancellations mean itinerary options are likely to stay limited in 2022

Oct 14, 2021

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With the cancellation of MSC Cruises‘ 2022 117-night world cruise on MSC Poesia, the line becomes the latest on a list of brands scrapping around-the-world voyages due to restrictive COVID-19 rules in many of the ports on which their ships were scheduled to call.

Given the amount of time and money passengers invest to sail on world cruises, the MSC cancellation is news in itself — especially because the sailing in question was set to depart in less than three months. Other cruise lines, such as Carnival Corporation brands Holland America, Princess, Seabourn and Cunard, canceled their world voyages months ago.

But the bigger issue lies in why the voyages were scrapped.

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“Unfortunately, there are simply too many international ports of call affected by the ongoing complexities of COVID-19, which has sadly led to this decision,” Cunard said in a statement when it canceled its 2022 around-the-world sailings on Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria back in June.

“The decision was made after careful consideration and assessment to cancel the 2022 World Cruise, as it would not have been possible to carry it out due to there being too many ports still facing restrictions as a result of the pandemic,” MSC said Thursday in its statement.

Port closures in particular don’t bode well for cruise lines’ expansion of itinerary offerings in at least the early part of next year. Currently, most major cruise lines that have resumed operations have been limited to destinations such as the Mediterranean, the United Kingdom, the Greek Isles, the Caribbean and the Bahamas, Mexico and the U.S., including California and Alaska.

MSC Magnifica (back) docked next to MSC Seaside (front) in Genoa, Italy (Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises)

Looking ahead to 2023, MSC Poesia was already scheduled to complete a world voyage. To make up for the missed one in 2022, MSC is adding a second world cruise on MSC Magnifica. According to the line’s statement, this will be the first time any cruise brand has offered two world cruises at the same exact time.

Both cruises are set to depart on Jan. 4, 2023, from Civitavecchia (the port for Rome). They will also make simultaneous stops in Genoa on Jan. 5, Marseille on Jan. 6 and Barcelona on Jan. 7 to pick up embarking passengers before diverging to complete their respective sailings.

Passengers booked on the canceled sailing can either choose a refund or shift to the 2023 voyage on MSC Magnifica, which will sail to the same ports in the same order and on the same dates as MSC Poesia was scheduled to do in 2022. Cruisers who choose the latter option will also be allowed to book a free cruise for departure any time between Jan. 1 and May 3, 2022.

In addition to 25 UNESCO World Heritage sites across five continents, MSC Magnifica’s 2023 world sailing is scheduled to visit 43 ports of call in 24 countries, including Portugal, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, the Cook Islands, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, Oman and Jordan. Many of those are not yet open to U.S. travelers, and a restart for the formerly lucrative Australia and New Zealand cruise market is nowhere in sight.

The cruise went on sale Thursday, with fares starting at $16,029 per person, double occupancy, for an inside cabin. Travelers booking the sailing will receive 15 free shore excursions, a complimentary beverage package and a 30% discount on onboard laundry services.

The already-sold-out 119-night 2023 world voyage on MSC Poesia will include 53 port calls in 33 countries, such as Costa Rica, Australia, Japan, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Jordan, Curaçao, Mexico, Greece and the U.S., including Hawaii.

Prices for that sailing started at $15,750 per person, double occupancy, for an inside cabin.

Featured image courtesy of MSC Cruises.

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