January 14 ------ As the cruise industry approaches the one year mark in its suspension of service, regulations and global efforts to contain and mitigate the coronavirus continued to hinder the cruise lines’ ability to resume service. While a few large cruise ships have been successful in resuming limited operations, the latest outbreaks of the virus are again forcing the postponement and cancelation of cruises in Europe and North America. The Royal Caribbean Group today announced a new, broad range of cancellations and postponements. “As we work closely with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and government authorities,” toward a safe resumption of service, the company said, “we are extending the suspension of certain sailings for our cruise lines.”
The Royal Caribbean International brand along with Celebrity Cruises and Azamara extended their cancellations till May 2021. The only exception is Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, which became the company’s first ship to resume sailing in December offering three- and four-night cruises to nowhere from Singapore under a trial program developed by the Singapore government. Also, cruises from China aboard the line’s Spectrum of the Seas were only canceled through the end of February and the group’s luxury brand Silversea Cruises through April 1. In a surprising move, Royal Caribbean also announced that it was suspending transatlantic and Europe sailings for three of Celebrity Cruises’ ships between May and October 2021. Similarly, many cruise lines also in the premium segment have also delayed their restart dates to the summer and fall of 2021, while the largest lines in the broadest segment of the market have canceled sailing through March 2021.
Extensions of travel restrictions and new requirements in parts of Europe prompted Carnival Corporation’s AIDA Cruises to again suspend operations. AIDA had briefly started cruising from Italy in the fall only to suspend operations due to the new German restrictions, but then in December started two ships operating cruises around the Canary Islands. New extensions of the regulations in Germany prompted AIDA to announce that it is now canceling the Canary Island cruises till the beginning of March. Also, the line dropped plans for possible cruises in the Orient or from Dubai.
Two other cruise lines based in Germany, TUI, and Hapag-Lloyd, however, said they are continuing to monitor the situation but plan to continue their current Canary Island cruise programs. TUI, which operates charter flights from Germany to the cruises, is warning passengers that as of January 11 they are required to take a COVID test either just prior to or on their return to Germany. Many German states are also requiring quarantines in addition to the tests. Both AIDA and TUI, however, are proceeding with plans for a more extensive restart of operations in the spring and summer of 2021. The lines are hoping to resume cruises in the Mediterranean and from Germany into the North Sea or to Scandinavia. The two cruise lines operating from Italy, Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises, both announced short delays after a Christmas season pause requested by the Italian government. MSC plans to resume sailing with its flagship the MSC Grandiosa on January 24 while Costa plans to resume service at the end of January substituting the 2,862 passenger Costa Deliziosa for its 6,600 passenger flagship the Costa Smeralda.
After repeated delays, the cruise lines are now hopeful that they will be able to be sailing during the summer, which historically was a peak travel season. Speaking yesterday with investors, Carnival Corporation’s CEO Arnold Donald said the North American lines were taking steps to prepare while also waiting for further guidance from the CDC. Donald said he was hopeful that the company’s cruise ships would all be back in service by the end of 2021.