The past two days have seen a flurry of news about individual cruise lines suspending their operations as the entire world does what they can to fight back against coronavirus.
Late yesterday, the entire industry made a move that encompasses just about every cruise line including major names like Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and MSC.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is a cruise industry group that counts every major cruise line as a member. Yesterday it announced that effective at midnight today, all its members are “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.”
If lines resume sailing 30 days from now, that would put them in a return to action on Monday, April 13.
Some cruise lines that had already announced suspensions before the industry-wide announcement had different dates to return to service. For instance, Disney Cruise Line suspended sailings until the end of March. Norwegian Cruise Line announced a return date of April 11 and Carnival has a return date of April 10.
We’ve reached out to each company for clarification. Carnival confirmed a return to sailing on April 10. We have yet to hear from others.
What Happens With Your Cruise Fare?
For passengers sailing on these cancelled cruises, the good news is that cruise lines have been generous with refunds. The general policy has been for cruise lines to return a full refund of what you’ve paid OR give a cruise credit valued at more than what you paid for a future cruise.
For example, Norwegian Cruise Lines announced it will give passengers on cruises that were scheduled through March 17 a credit of 150% of what they paid as a credit for a future sailing. Those sailing through April 11 can receive 125% of what they paid in future credit.
As well, if the booked passenger prefers, they can receive 100% of their cruise fare back in the original form of payment.
Royal Caribbean and MSC are offering a 125% future credit, or a full refund.
If you have a sailing that’s cancelled, your cruise line will be in contact about your specific options.
A Major, But Logical Next Step
The idea that there would be so much chaos around the world has caught many off-guard. While it has been in the headlines for many weeks, the spread first seemed limited to China. Cruise lines were relatively proactive in cancelling sailings from the region weeks in advance.
As the illness continued to spread, cruise lines and the industry as a whole implemented tougher procedures to keep passengers healthy. This included the denial of boarding to passengers from China, Korea, and Italy. It also included those who had contact with people suspected or confirmed to have coronavirus.
Meanwhile, temperature checks, medical screenings, and increased sanitation in terminals and on the ships were enacted.
Still, as the cases continued to spread around the world, the suspensions of cruises seemed to be the next logical step, albeit a big one.
“We do not take this decision lightly, and we want the traveling public to know in no uncertain terms the commitment of this industry to putting people first,” said Adam Goldstein, CLIA Global Chairman. “During this time, we will continue to work with the CDC and others to prepare for resumption of sailings when it is appropriate. We know the travel industry is a huge economic engine for the United States and when our ships once again sail, our industry will be a significant contributor to fueling the economic recovery.”
Will the Suspension of Cruises Last Longer?
We first raised the possibility of cancelled cruises in the United States a couple of weeks ago.
At that time, we said, “… If the outbreak becomes widespread across the country, with thousands sick, it’s reasonable to think that cruises from the United States could look at cancellations for health reasons. After all, no one — cruise lines, passengers, or ports of call — wants to see coronavirus on a cruise ship.”
That’s exactly what has happened.
The question now becomes what happens next? While suspending cruises for 30 days is a drastic move, will it actually be long enough? Truth is that no one knows.
The spread could slow and make it safe to return to sailing in a month. There’s also a possibility that we will still be in the middle of the crisis and cruises will have to be cancelled farther into the future. As a point of reference, Italy had just three cases reported a month ago. Today, they have more than 17,000 cases.
Hopefully in a month the illness will start to become a memory and the cruise industry can start a march back to normal.