Few vacations are more relaxing than a cruise. Ever-changing scenery, glorious food and drink, enjoying the high life on the high seas. But the COVID-19 pandemic has cruelly put paid to such fun. So when will we be able to sail away again?
The industry is trying to put an optimistic foot forward, and the good news is there’s some light at the end of a very gloomy tunnel.
Royal Caribbean has even suggested that it could operate some sailings on the Quantum-class Anthem of the Seas out of Southampton, as early as this summer, although October seems more likely.
Speaking to the travel trade recently, Royal Caribbean European vice president Ben Bouldin, vowed it’s a matter of when not if. “We’re still expecting Anthem to come to the UK,” he said, adding the company will “evaluate what’s left of the season and what opportunities there are left to get some sailings away this summer.”
This despite question marks over cross-border travel, non essential travel bans and no-sail orders. The UK government advised against all non-essential travel ‘indefinitely’ from March 17.
In the US, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has instructed cruise lines to keep their ships docked until July 24. There are also sailing bans in place in Australia, Spain and Canada.
The industry is embattled.
Royal Caribbean has suggested that Anthem of the Seas could sail out of Southampton as early as this summer…
“This global outbreak continues to challenge our world in unimaginable ways,” says Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. Those booked on cancelled voyages, who have paid in full, are being offered a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) equivalent to 100 per cent of the cruise fare paid plus an additional 25 per cent.
Crystal Cruises has announced plans to resume operations in the autumn with Caribbean sailings from Miami and Puerto Rico, albeit with a lower passenger capacity. Crystal Serenity will be deployed on two seven-night itineraries in October and November.
Celebrity Cruises had only just taken delivery of a new ship, Celebrity Apex, sister to Celebrity Edge.
Virgin Voyages has cancelled sailings through October 15, 2020. It had been looking for ways to sail by August, but says that hasn’t turned out to be possible.
It’s also introduced a new Smooth Sailing program for 2020. For sailings through December 16, 2020, it’s moved final payment dates to 60 days (from 120 days) before you sail, and you can cancel up to 48 hours before your voyage and receive a 100 per cent voyage credit.
The launch of P&O’s new flagship, the 5,200-passenger Iona, has also been affected, her maiden voyage to the Norwegian fjords postponed. The cruise line had grand plans for the new vessel, including an image redefining IonaFest at sea, with a line-up that included Gary Barlow, Pixie Lott, Diversity, and The Script, amongst others.
All P&O ships are currently berthed in the UK; Queen Mary 2 is berthed at her homeport of Southampton. The company has paused all operations till October 15.
Fred. Olsen has extended its operational pause beyond May 23, and is unable to confirm a return to sailings…
Fred. Olsen has extended its pause in sailings, and is unable to confirm a return to sailings. “At this stage I am not able to confirm a date when we can expect to resume normal operations, as what I don’t want to do is set an expectation and not be able to deliver what we promise,” says Peter Deer, Managing Director.
Balmoral, Braemar, Boudicca and Black Watch are stationed in Scotland’s Firth of Forth, just outside the Port of Rosyth, during the company’s pause in cruise operations. All guests on affected cruises will be notified with at least 30 days’ notice before their cruise was due to depart. In addition, the cruise line has also launched a Plain Sailing Guarantee to reassure holidaymakers. This includes a quibble free refund and the flexibility to transfer to an alternative cruise, using a future cruise voucher, valid for 24 months.
The good news is there could be some excellent cruise deals on offer for 2021…
Tui’s Marella Cruises brand has suspended cruises until the end of June, and will send Marella Celebration into early retirement. However Tui Cruises’ chief executive Wybcke Meier suggests demand for cruises will return to pre-coronavirus levels within a year.
But with ongoing uncertainty, industry analysts suggest that beyond some short cruises before the end of the year, the season has effectively been written off.
The good news is there could be some excellent deals floated for 2021, as cruise lines look to tempt us back onboard.
Princess Cruises is already offering reduced fares on more than 800 voyages departing between December 2020 and May 2022 as part of its ‘Princess Sale’. This includes 7-night sailings available from £499pp. Voyages include a 14-night Mediterranean Adventurer cruise on Grand Princess, departing July 24, 2021. Sailing roundtrip from Southampton calling at Seville , Barcelona, Marseille, Florence/Pisa, Rome , Sardinia and Ceuta, prices from £1499pp.
Similarly tempting is a 7-night Scandinavia cruise on Grand Princess, departing November 15, 2021. Sailing roundtrip from Southampton calling at Oslo, Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Kristiansand, prices from £679pp.
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean’s Cruise with Confidence cancellation policy now runs through to April 2022. With it, you can shift to another cruise with the same itinerary up to 48 hours before departure.
2020 may well a write off when it comes to cruising, but we expect many more enticing deals to be announced for 2021/2022 sailings. But it remains to be seen what the cruise experience of tomorrow actually looks like…