(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. In this case, every cruise line is planning for at least a 111-day stop on service, but some are going even further.
Below we’ve laid out all the dates that major cruise lines say they will resume sailing.
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, most cruise lines have already extended their original returns several times.
It could be that the return dates are extended again. Many restrictions in effect to reduce the spread of the virus already extend well beyond the anticipated sail dates of the cruise lines.
Most importantly, 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.
- 100 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.
The only one of these scenarios with a set date is the “100 days,” which would be in late July. Currently cruise lines have announced return dates ranging past that date, but there is no word on if the order will be extended.
Carnival Cruise Lines: Resume Sailing August 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 to cancel sailings through July 31. On August 1, Carnival plans to reopen cruising with service on a handful of ships from three ports — Galveston, Miami, and Port Canaveral.
Most (but not all) of the rest of its fleet is tentatively scheduled to begin sailing on September 1. Carnival has also cancelled the following trips:
- 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 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: Resume Sailing July 1
(Note: Royal Caribbean plans to return to sailing in the United States August 1. However, trips from Asia are scheduled to begin July 1)
Royal Caribbean made its 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 sailing in mid-April. That date is now August 1 for cruises from the U.S., after multiple extensions were announced. Sailings are scheduled starting July 1 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 until December 31, 2020 or 2021, depending on their original sail date.
Celebrity Cruises: Resume Sailing August 1
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.
Celebrity has suspended all cruises until August. That includes all cruises around the world.
The first sailings offered include four different trip scheduled for August 1. Passengers who had their trip cancelled will receive either a full refund or a 125% credit for a future cruise.
Norwegian Cruise Line | Oceania | Regent Seven Seas: Resume Sailing August 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. It’s now been extended to August 1.
This includes not only the namesake Norwegian Cruise Line, but also its smaller brands Oceania and Regent Seven Seas.
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 will return in a gradual phase-in approach, similar to Carnival.
Disney Cruise Line: Resume Sailing July 31
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 Disney has extended the cancellation for all departures through July 27, 2020. Given the schedule of sailings, that means the ships will return at different dates:
- Disney Dream: July 31
- Disney Fantasy: August 1
- Disney Wonder: August 2
- Disney Magic: August 5
The cruise line says that it will offer affected guests either a cruise credit or a full refund.
MSC Cruises: Resume Sailing July 11
MSC is a global cruise line and has ships sailing worldwide, but it has now cancelled all sailings from March 14 through July 10. It plans to resume sailing on July 11.
Note that this is before the 100 days after the publication of the CDC’s “No Sail Order,” so the return could be extended until a later date.
Guests with cancelled sailings will receive 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: Resume Sailing August 8
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 at least until the “end of the summer season” (no set date is given), however, many sailings other sailings have been cancelled:
- All remaining Alaska cruises on Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess
- All remaining Europe and Transatlantic cruises on Enchanted Princess, Regal Princess, Sky Princess, Crown Princess and Island Princess
- Summer Caribbean cruises and all Canada & New England cruises on Caribbean Princess and Sky Princess
- Summer to Fall 2020 cruises departing from Japan on Diamond Princess
- Australia-based cruises on Sapphire Princess and Sea Princess through the end of August
- July cruises sailing from Taiwan on Majestic Princess
- Fall cruises sailing to Hawaii and French Polynesia on Pacific Princess through November
The first cruise available from Princess on their website was a trip from Taipei on August 8.
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 September 20
The longest suspension of sailings? That goes to Holland America, which recently decided to “cancel all Alaska, Europe and Canada/New England cruises in 2020.”
The cruise line doesn’t show an available cruise on its website until September 20. That trip is a lengthy 17-day cruise from Canada to Hawaii.
According to our calculations, if that cruise sails, it will mark 190 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, plus $250 in onboard credit for rebooking a a cruise that sails before the end of 2022.
What Will Cruising Look Like When It Does Resume?
There is a near certainty that when cruises do come back, it’s going to look very different than it did going into the crisis.
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 touchpoints 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 long 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 will likely have a heavy emphasis on symptoms of COVID-19. Also, if there are specific regions that have large future outbreaks, then passengers that have traveled there recently may be denied boarding.
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. Instead of a two-week sailing to multiple countries, 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 cancelled until there is more demand.
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.