(Since first publishing this article, cruise lines have announced new “return to sailing” dates several times. We’ve updated the information below to reflect the new dates.)
On March 13, the entire cruise industry made history when it announced it would voluntarily suspend sailing in the United States for 30 days. To further ensure cruises were halted, there was also been a “No Sail Order” put in place by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Of course, the original suspensions of only a month proved to be far too optimistic.
Now, with the crisis continuing and more spread being seen around the world, the cruise lines have since announced even longer suspensions of sailing. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has now said its members will suspend U.S. sailings through at least October 31.
Strengthening that suspension, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has announced a “No Sail Order” that extends through October 31. This suspension was last extended at the end of September for an additional month.
Current Sailing Suspensions End Dates For U.S. Cruises:
Cruise Lines International Association (Voluntary): October 31
Centers for Disease Control “No Sail Order” (Mandatory): October 31
There is still the possibility of further extensions. At this point, there are still tens of thousands of new cases in the United States each day. Meanwhile, around 750 Americans succumb to the virus daily.
Barring, more suspensions however, every major cruise line is planning for at least a 231-day stop on service.
Below we’ve laid out all the dates that major cruise lines say they will resume sailing from the United States.
Note: Dates mentioned are scheduled return dates for cruises from the U.S. In some cases cruise lines might start sailing in other regions earlier than the dates listed below.
Note: Return Dates Could Change
Before we get too far, you should know that these dates are the anticipated return to sailing dates. If we’ve learned anything in the past months, it’s that this situation can change quickly. In fact, cruise lines have already extended their original returns several times.
It could be that the return dates are extended again, whether voluntarily or via government action. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a “No Sail Order” that puts the industry at a standstill in the United States. That order can be lifted in one of three scenarios:
- The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency,
- The CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations, or
- October 31, 2020.
However, this doesn’t mean cruises will return after that date. The order can be extended, and already has been three times.
Bottom line: The earliest cruises will return to the United States is November, but that could be extended.
Carnival Cruise Lines: Resume Sailing November 1
Carnival — arguably the world’s most famous cruise line — won’t return to sailing from the United States until November at the earliest.
Carnival has said they plan a phased-in approach to return to sailing as they learn how to return to sailing safely.
Trips are scheduled to begin in November on a limited number of ships, from only two ports: Miami and Port Canaveral. All other cruises through the end of 2020 are cancelled.
In addition, Carnival has adjusted the schedule of number of sailings impacted by cancellations:
- Carnival Splendor sailings through and including January 7, 2021
- Carnival Spirit sailings through and including May 16, 2021
- Mardi Gras sailings November 14, 2020 through and including January 30, 2021
- Carnival Breeze from Ft. Lauderdale sailings November 7, 2020 through and including March 7, 2021
- Carnival Sensation sailings March 3, 2022 and March 7, 2022
- Carnival Sunrise:
Sailings through and including October 19, 2020
Miami 7 and 8 day sailings from October 9, 2021 through and including April 30, 2022, excluding the March 5, 2022 sailing
Miami 5 day sailing January 3, 2022
- Carnival Radiance:
Sailings through and including November 1, 2020
9, 12 and 14 day sailings from May 2, 2021 through and including April 29, 2022
5 day sailings December 23, 2021 and December 28, 2021
Carnival Paradise sailings through and including February 22, 2021
- Carnival Magic:
Ft. Lauderdale and Miami sailings through and including March 6, 2021
Transatlantic & Barcelona sailings April 10, 2021 through and including May 3, 2021
- Carnival Valor sailings through and including April 24, 2021
Additionally, Carnival has reduced a number of ships in its fleet, cancelling all previously scheduled sailings for those vessels.
Passengers who had cruises cancelled during this time will receive their money back in the form of either cruise credit for a future trip or a full refund. Those selecting a cruise credit will also get either $600 or $300 per cabin in onboard credit for their re-booked cruise, depending on the length of the original sailing.
Royal Caribbean: Resume Sailing November 1
Royal Caribbean made its original announcements in two different segments. First, the company announced it suspended U.S. sailings starting March 14. Then, starting on March 15, Royal Caribbean suspended its cruises around the world.
Originally the company planned to return to operations in mid-April. That date is now November 1 for cruises from the U.S. and Asia, after multiple extensions were announced. Sailings in Australia are cancelled through the rest of 2020 and European cruises through the end of November.
Cancelled trips 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.
Celebrity Cruises: Resume Sailing November 2
Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. is the parent company of Celebrity. It shouldn’t be surprising that the cruise line is following a similar path to its sister line.
Looking at departures on its website, Celebrity has suspended cruises through October 31. That includes all cruises around the world.
The first sailing offered is an 11-day cruise from Fort Lauderdale, departing on November 2.
Passengers who had their trip cancelled will receive either a full refund or a 125% credit for a future cruise.
Norwegian Cruise Line: Resume Sailing November 1
Beginning as of March 13, Norwegian made the call to suspend voyages across their fleet worldwide. The plan was for the ships to resume sailing on April 12, 2020, but the suspension was lengthened multiple times. It’s now been extended through October 31, with cruises returning in November.
For most of the trips cancelled during this time frame, Norwegian 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 has also announced it plans to return in a gradual phase-in approach, similar to Carnival.
Disney Cruise Line: Resume Sailing December 6
Disney suspended sailing along with the other major cruise lines. Originally it said that the suspension would last through the end of March. Then it extended that date for all four of its ships to April 12, with trips resuming on April 13.
Now, according to a notice on its website, Disney has extended the cancellation for all departures through at least December 5, 2020. Due to the scheduling of their ships, the first Disney cruise ship that will return is the Fantasy on December 6. Other ships will return to service through the rest of December.
The cruise line says that it will offer affected guests either a cruise credit or a full refund. As well, passengers who book by October 31, 2020 can change their sail date up to 15 days before departure on trips that sail through May 2021.
MSC Cruises: Resume Sailing November 1
MSC is a global cruise line and has ships sailing worldwide, but it cancelled all sailings from March 14 through August 15. The cruise line has now resumed sailings in the Mediterranean, to much fanfare.
The cruise line says that trips for most ships are canceled until November. In the United States, trips won’t begin again until after November 1. At that time the MSC Seaside is set to begin sailing from Port Canaveral and the MSC Meraviglia from Miami. However, cruises shown as available on MSC’s website begin with the Meraviglia on November 7.
Guests with cancelled sailings will receive a 125% cruise credit to sail on another cruise. Or if they prefer, they can also get a 100% refund of what they paid for the trip.
Princess Cruises: Resume Sailing December 19
Princess has been the cruise line perhaps most impacted by the crisis. At least 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 originally announced it would stop all cruises from March 12 through May 10.
That’s now been extended. Princess cruises has paused operations until at least mid-December.
The first cruise shown available from Princess on their website is a trip from Tokyo on December 16. The first cruise departing from the United States is scheduled to sail from Fort Lauderdale on December 19.
Guests impacted will receive all their money back as a 125% cruise credit or there is also an option to receive a full refund.
Holland America: Resume Sailing December 19
Like Princess, Holland America has suspended departures through the middle of December after pausing back in March.
Holland America’s first available cruises depart December 19, with multiple ships leaving from ports including San Diego, Fort Lauderdale, Auckland, and Buenos Aires.
According to our calculations, if those cruises sail, it will mark about 280 days — or more than nine months — that the line suspended trips.
Guests who had their trips cancelled can opt to receive a refund of what they paid, or a 125% cruise credit will be applied automatically.
What Will Cruising Look Like When It Does Resume?
It’s clear that when cruises do come back, it’s going to look very different than it did going into the crisis. Cruise lines have started to announce their changes.
Of course, just like venues on land, there are almost certainly going to be new procedures in place on the ship. This will run the gamut from more frequent sanitation to reducing touch points on ships.
Don’t be surprised if there are fewer deck chairs by the pool and they are spaced farther apart. Expect that food on buffets will no longer be self-serve. And crew members will wear masks while on duty. Also expect cruise lines to ask passengers to wear masks when distancing isn’t an option (such as elevators).
At check-in, it’s likely that the procedures put in place during the outbreak will stick around for months or years to come.
That means you can expect things like temperature checks before boarding. As well, health questionnaires with a heavy emphasis on symptoms of COVID-19.
Check-in is going to move more online to reduce the interaction and crowds in the terminal. Also, expect staggered boarding to spread out the number of passengers entering the terminal at any one time.
One other item that’s already being seen in Europe are rapid COVID tests for all passengers before they can board.
When cruises do resume, it’s unlikely that one day there will be no cruises and the next day you’ll see a full schedule of sailings.
“I think initially we will come out operating smaller than we did than before we went into this,” said Carnival CEO Arnold Donald. “That’s because there won’t be some light switch. Every destination won’t open simultaneously.”
In fact, multiple cruise lines have talked about extended “lay ups” for some of their ships during the crisis.
What’s possible is that as cruises resume, they do so slowly. We think you’re more likely to see options for shorter sailings that stop in a single country or the cruise line’s private island. It’s possible as well that only some ships resume service while others are held ready until there is more demand and cruise lines show that they can handle sailing in the new COVID-19 world.
No matter when the cruise lines resume sailing, or the changes made, it’s clear that getting back to normal is going to take some time.