(Since first publishing this article, cruise lines have announced new “return to sailing” dates. 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 suspend sailing in the United States for 30 days. So when will cruise lines resume sailing?
In their announcement, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) — the industry’s trade group — 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 meant a return to sailing on April 13. However, that has proven to be too optimistic in the face of an unprecedented crisis.
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), an industry group that counts nearly every cruise line as a member, has said its members will now suspend U.S. sailings until September 15.
Beyond that, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), has announced a “No Sail Order” that extends through September 30. While there are a couple of instances where the CDC says they will lift the ban earlier, at this point, it seems unlikely to occur.
In this case, every cruise line is planning for at least a 196-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
- September 30, 2020.
However, this doesn’t mean cruises will return after that date. The order can be extended, and already has been twice.
Carnival Cruise Lines: Resume Sailing October 1
Carnival originally suspended its cruises from March 14, through April 9. It had plans to restart trips on Friday, April 10.
Now that’s been extended multiple times. The cruise line has cancelled all sailings through September 30, 2020 — giving it a return to service date of October 1. Even then, only some ships will start sailing at first.
In addition to cancelling all trips through September, the following trips are also cancelled:
- All San Francisco sailings through 2020
- All Carnival Sunrise sailings through and including October 19, 2020
- All Carnival Legend sailings through and including October 30, 2020
- All Carnival Radiance sailings through and including November 1, 2020
- All Carnival Spirit Alaska, Hawaii, & Trans-Pacific sailings through and including October 6, 2020
Passengers who had cruises cancelled during this time will receive refunds 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 October 2
(Note: Royal Caribbean plans to return to sailing in the United States on October 2. However, trips from Asia are scheduled to begin August 19)
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 October 2 for cruises from the U.S., after multiple extensions were announced. Sailings are scheduled starting August 19 in Asia.
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 October 5
(Note: Celebrity plans to return to sailing in the United States on October 5. However, trips from Europe and the Galapagos are scheduled to begin October 3)
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 until October 3. That includes all cruises around the world.
The first sailings offered include European cruises. The first departure from the United States is on October 5, from Fort Lauderdale. 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 October 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 September 30, with cruises returning in October.
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 October 4
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 September 15, 2020. But in the wake of the CDC “No Sail” extension, no sailings are shown before October 4. Notably, all trips in October are now five nights or fewer and stop in only one country.
The cruise line says that it will offer affected guests either a cruise credit or a full refund. As well, passengers who book by August 31, 2020 can change their sail date up to 15 days before departure on trips that sail through March 2021.
MSC Cruises: Resume Sailing October 4
(Note: MSC plans to return to sailing from the United States on October 4. However, trips in Europe begin in August.)
MSC is a global cruise line and has ships sailing worldwide, but it has now cancelled all sailings from March 14 through August 15. The cruise line plans to resume sailing in Europe starting in mid-August. Trips from the United States won’t begin again until October 4, with the MSC Armonia sailing from Miami.
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 September 27*
(Note: Princess plans to return to sailing from the United States September 27. However, trips from Australia begin September 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 announced it would stop all cruises from March 12 through May 10. It had planned to return to service on May 11.
That’s now been extended. The first cruise available from Princess on their website is a trip from Sydney, Australia on September 19. The first cruise departing from the United States is scheduled to sail from Los Angeles on September 27, 2020. Note that this is before the September 30 date on the CDC’s “No Sail Order,” so it is possible this trip will end up cancelled.
Guests impacted will receive all their money back as a 125% cruise credit or there is also an option to receive a full refund.
*Date is before the end of the CDC’s “No Sail Order” and may be pushed back.
Holland America: Resume Sailing September 27*
Holland America doesn’t show an available cruise on its website until September 27. That trip is a lengthy 26-day cruise from Seattle to Sydney, Australia.
According to our calculations, if that cruise sails, it will mark 196 days — or more than six 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.
*Date is before the end of the CDC’s “No Sail Order” and may be pushed back.
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 we think it’s possible that many (if not all) crew members wear masks while on duty.
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.
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.