(Updated 3/25/20 to reflect Royal Caribbean’s extension of its suspension. The cruise line now plans to return to sailing on May 12, 2020.)
On March 13, history was made when the entire cruise industry announced it would suspend sailing in the United States for 30 days. So when will cruise lines start sailing again?
Truth is, it’s a little more complicated than tacking on 30 days to the announcement date from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), an industry trade group that represents all the major cruise lines.
In their announcement ClIA set out the following guidelines:
“CLIA ocean-going cruise lines will be voluntarily and temporarily suspending cruise ship operations from U.S. ports of call for 30 days as public health officials and the U.S. Government continue to address COVID-19.
“…The temporary suspension will take effect at 12:00AM EDT on 14 March 2020. CLIA ocean-going cruise lines are focused on the safe and smooth return of those currently at sea onboard ships that will be affected by this decision.”
Thirty days from March 14 is a return to sailing on April 13. However, individual cruise lines are setting their own dates to return to sailing. In some cases they are longer than the 30-day ban and in some they are shorter.
Below we’ve laid out all the dates that major cruise lines say they will start sailing again.
Note: Sail Dates Could Change
Before we get too far, you should know that these dates are the anticipated return to sailing dates that were announced in mid-March. If we’ve learned anything in the past weeks, it’s that this situation can change quickly.
In fact, many restrictions in effect to reduce the spread extend well beyond the anticipated sail dates of the cruise lines.
For example, Canada has placed a ban on large cruise ships until July, which largely shuts down the Alaskan cruise season until then. Cruises leaving a U.S. port must call on a foreign port before returning back to the United States. Without a stop in Canada, current laws mean Alaskan cruises from Seattle can’t sail as planned.
This is to say nothing of other travel restrictions or limits on group sizes that may be in place at the anticipated date of sailing.
In our opinion, many cruise lines will need to extend the dates that they return to service as it’s looking more and more like mid-April will not be long enough. Let’s hope that’s not the case.
Carnival Cruise Lines (April 10)
Carnival suspended its cruises from March 14, through April 9. It plans to restart trips on Friday, April 10. That’s slightly shorter than the 30 days referenced by CLIA.
Passengers who had cruises cancelled during this time receive refunds of either cruise credit for a future trip or a full refund.
Those selecting a credit to use for a future cruise that were sailing six days or more get 100% of what they paid back, plus a massive $600 per cabin in onboard credit. Passengers with cruises of five days or fewer that re-book get a generous $300 per cabin.
Royal Caribbean | Celebrity Cruises (May 12)
Update: Since this article was published, Royal Caribbean has announced a further suspension of global sailings until May 12, 2020.
Royal Caribbean made its announcements in two different segments. First, the company announced it suspended U.S. sailings starting March 13. Two days later on March 15, Royal Caribbean suspended its cruises around the world.
This applies to both Royal Caribbean trips and to Celebrity Cruises. Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD is the parent of Celebrity.
The cruise line says that its “goal is to resume operations on April 11, 2020.” (That return to sail date is now May 12, 2020.)
Those trips that had cancellations are automatically eligible for a 125% cruise credit. So if the cruise fare paid was $1,200, then guests receive $1,500. Passengers also have the option of a full cash refund until December 31, 2021.
Norwegian Cruise Line | Oceania | Regent Seven Seas (April 12)
As of March 13, Norwegian made the call to suspend voyages across their fleet worldwide. The plan is currently for the ships to return to sailing on April 12, 2020. This includes not only the namesake Norwegian Cruise Line, but also its smaller brands Oceania and Regent Seven Seas. In total, 17 ships sailing around the globe are impacted by the cancellations.
For most of the trips cancelled during this timeframe, passengers have the option of either a 125% fare credit (some cruises early in the cancellation period are eligible for 150%) or a full refund.
Norwegian asks passengers seeking a refund to wait until after March 23 to contact the company.
Disney (April 13)
Disney suspended sailing on Friday, March 13. Originally it said that the suspension would last through the end of March. Now it has extended that date for all four of its ships to April 12, with trips resuming on April 13. That makes a full month.
The cruise line says that it will either offer affected guests a cruise credit or a full refund.
For those trips departing from Canada starting in late April, the cruise line says it is “evaluating various options and have not made changes to any itineraries. Once a decision is made, we will reach out to Guests booked on these sailings.”
As mentioned earlier, Canada has denied access to its ports until July 1.
MSC Cruises (May 1)
While MSC is a global cruise line and has ships sailing worldwide, it has cancelled its trips from Miami as of March 14.
MSC has one of the longest scheduled outage of any line, at about 45 days. It plans to resume sailing on May 1.
Guests who had their trips cancelled will get a 125% cruise credit to sail on another cruise before December 31, 2021. Or if they prefer, they can also get a 100% refund of what they paid for the trip.
Princess Cruises (May 11)
Princess has been the cruise line most impacted by the crisis. Two of its ships had multiple cases on board, leading to headlines around the world.
It also made the news by being the first major cruise line to announce a voluntary suspension of cruising and was quickly followed by other lines. Princess announced on March 12 that it would halt cruising through May 10. It plans to return to service on May 11. This stoppage applies to all 18 of the cruise line’s ships around the world.
Guests impacted — or who cancelled on February 4 or after — will receive all their money back as a cruise credit plus an “additional generous future cruise credit.” There is also an option to receive a cash refund if guests would rather.
See below for a comparison of all the return to sailing dates announcement from major cruise lines.