Update: Since publishing, Royal Caribbean Group and Carnival Cruise Line have also extended their suspensions, along with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd. We’ve updated the article below to reflect the news.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. — parent company of Norwegian Cruise Lines, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises — announced it is extending its sailing suspension.
Cruises aboard Norwegian Cruise Line are suspended through February 28, along with select cruises in March. Sailings aboard both Oceania and Regent are suspended through March.
According to a press release, Norwegian “will continue to work in tandem with global government and public health authorities and its Healthy Sail Panel expert advisors to take all necessary measures to protect its guests, crew and the communities visited.”
Previously the cruise company had suspended cruises through the end of the 2020.
With Norwegian originally cancelling trips in mid-March of 2020, a suspension through February 2021 would mark nearly a year without sailing.
Royal Caribbean Group Also Extends Suspension
In addition to Norwegian, Royal Caribbean Group (parent of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and others) has announced an extension of their own. The extension applies to the majority of its cruises through February 2021.
For Royal Caribbean International, most sailings are cancelled through February. Trips in Australia are suspend through April. The cruise line just resumed service in Singapore and is scheduled to sail Spectrum of the Seas in China after January 20.
Celebrity Cruises has suspended sailings through February as well. In addition, South American cruises are postponed through April 7, 2021.
Carnival Cancelled Cruises — Including Mardi Gras Debut
Joining in on Thursday morning, Carnival Cruise Line announced a cancellation of many itineraries as it works through the return process.
The cruise line cancelled all trips through February, like its peers. In addition, Carnival also has a number of ships already scheduled to return later in the year as it comes back to sailing in a “staggered” approach.
Most notably, Carnival’s Mardi Gras — the line’s newest and largest ship — had its debut pushed back from February to April 24, 2021.
“We apologize to our guests but we must continue to take a thoughtful, deliberate and measured approach as we map out our return to operations in 2021,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “Our commitment to the health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is at the forefront of our decisions and operations.”
CDC Framework & Its Impact on When Cruises Return
As Cruzely has covered before, the CDC’s framework to return to sailing laid out the steps that cruise lines would need to take in order to sail again from the United States. While the pathway to return was welcome news, we warned that it would likely take months before cruises would sail again.
Not only does the CDC lay out a number of requirements that must be met, but they also require long lead times between steps.
For example, cruise lines are required to sail “simulated voyages” but must give 30 days notice to the CDC before sailing. Lines also must receive a “Conditional Sailing Certificate” but need to submit an application 60 days before the anticipated sail date.
Since the framework was announced, cruise lines have begun to suspend cruises well into 2021. The industry as a whole — through Cruise Lines International Association — currently has a cruise suspension in place through December 2020.
Given the CDC requirements, it wouldn’t surprise us to see all the major lines adjust their schedules in the weeks ahead to something similar to what Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have announced.
Will a Vaccine Coincide With a Cruise Return?
While cruise suspensions aren’t good news, there does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel for Norwegian and other lines.
Not only has the CDC laid out the path to return to sailing, but promising vaccine news has given hope to the travel industry as a whole.
Should a vaccine be approved for use, the rumored timeline of large-scale distribution is said to be in early-to-mid 2021. That coincides with the anticipated return date for several cruise lines.
Obviously the widespread distribution of a vaccine should help to reduce the number of cases, thereby making control of the virus at sea easier. A smaller number of cases combined with the extensive testing of passengers and crew before boarding, social distancing measures during cruises, and protocols for handling any cases found, could go a long way to restoring confidence in the cruise industry and return to sailing safely.
In other words, while virus cases are hitting new highs and officials warn that the winter months could be dire, there are reasons to think we can put an end to the crisis and return back to normal life — including enjoying cruises — in the months ahead.