Last updated on Mar 15, 2021
On March 11 2020, the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), forcing countries to close their borders, close schools and governments to issue safety measures. As a result, the travel industry (including the cruise sector) is being heavily impacted globally. Shortly after, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have issued a U.S. no-sail order to suspend cruise operations. In October 2020, the CDC then announced a Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for Cruise Ships.
This article will help cruisers understand the global impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, check the current status of Coronavirus affected cruise ships, have a clear view of how to cancel a planned cruise and reflect on the future of the cruise industry.
Coronavirus map - outbreak live update
According to the University of Virginia COVID-19 surveillance dashboard, the number of Coronavirus cases has been increasing exponentially since end of January 2020. The Coronavirus outbreak reached its peak with over 119 mio cases globally on March 15, 2021. Click here to view the live status of the global outbreak.
In the United States, the current death toll is over 534k people. The number of confirmed cases has recently climbed to over 29 mio nationwide.Princess Cruises Regal Princess and Diamond Princess cruise ships have been the first cruise ships who where particularly touched by the pandemic. Since then, several other cruise ships have had confirmed cases on board. In April 2020, the Italian cruise ship Costa Atlanticamade headlines when it docked for repairs in Japan's Nagasaki: almost 150 crew members tested positive for Coronavirus.
Coronavirus cruise ships tracker - overview of stranded ships
Last year, cruise ships (with or without onboard confirmed cases) were being left stranded at sea or in port as countries have refused them permission to dock. In May 2020, The Guardian claimed that although most of the passengers were off board, there were still over 100k crew members stuck on cruise ships worldwide. For instance, the cruise ship Greg Mortimer finally allowed most of their crew members to disembark in Uruguay after weeks at sea.Using our cruise ship tracker, you can see where cruise ships are located in real time. Try checking out for example the cruise ship location of Zaandam.
Cruise Cancellation, Refund And Rebooking Policies: what cruisers need to know
Cruise lines have been updating their cancellation policies due to the urgent circumstances. Here’s an overview of what you need to know if you planned a cruise and need to cancel it or get a refund.
Major cruise lines cancellation policies
Carnival cancellation policy - Choose Fun with Confidence
The Carnival Corporation, owner of six cruise lines, has issued a global “Cruise With Confidence” policy to be followed by its trade cruise line companies. The cruise company has cancelled all sailings through and including April 30, 2021. For those cruise customers who booked one of their many cancelled sailings, Carnival offers the following Coronavirus refund:
Royal Caribbean cancellation policy - Cruise with Confidence
Royal Caribbean Cruises have resumed operations in Singapore onboard Quantum of the Seas, and plan to resume broader global operations on May 01, 2021. Therefore they provide their customers with a "Future Cruise Credit", if their sailing departures on-or-before April 30, 2021.
Norwegian Cruise Lines cancellation policy - Peace of Mind
NCL is as well extending suspension for all cruises embarking through April 2021. Besides different refund options, the cruise line also offers a "Break Free in 2021" offer, a special deal including a discount of 30% off all cruises and other free packages on top.
What this means for cruisers
Normally, there are several options to cancel a booked cruise. You should first check out your cruise line’s cancellation policy update. There are usually no cancellation fees. Cruise companies also often offer future cruise credit. These can be used on future trips, if customers cancel their trips in a specific time frame before (usually 24 to 48 hours beforehand).
All Cruise lines cancellation policies
Health measures against COVID-19
As a response to the virus, all the stakeholders of the cruise industry, cruise lines, travel agents and cruise lovers must now find ways to thrive, while monitoring disease control and prevention.
The CLIA and several cruise lines have taken measures to reassure passengers and crew members. They are urging customers to practice social distancing even with their family members when relevant.
CLIA also released COVID-19 fact sheets as well as a Frequently Asked Questions list to answer cruisers interrogations. Cruise passengers can also fill in a Traveler’s Health Declaration/Questionnaire prior to boarding, as part of the new safety measures.
The CDC also just issued a Framework for Conditional Sailing Order. As the list of requirements for a comeback is very long and complex, it is yet uncertain how long it will take the cruise industry to fully restart.
What’s next for the cruise industry?
With hundreds of COVID-19 confirmed cases all eyes have been on the cruise line companies such as Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line or Royal Caribbean.
“We’ve been asked, and we’ve asked ourselves why COVID-19 seems to be impacting Princess so heavily,” president of Princess Cruises Jan Swartz said. “We don’t really know.”
In 2018, the cruise industry weighed 150 billion dollars and predicted a flow of 32 million passengers expected to cruise in 2020. Although the reasons for Princess Cruises infection rate are unknown, the economic impact of the crisis is clear: shortly after the first headlines, it resulted in Carnival’s stock dropping by nearly 60% while Royal Caribbean and Norwegian lost over 70% of their value in March 2020. Nevertheless, this development has changed direction in the following weeks. In June 2020, Carnival and Norwegian have doubled, Royal Caribbean has even tripled their shares. But besides the big players, let’s not forget small travel agent businesses, airlines and hotels which are suffering heavy financial difficulties since the crisis.
With the ongoing crisis, everything seems uncertain, but CLIA vice president remains optimistic:
"While cruising may be momentarily paused, our industry will be back... better than ever before. We will be so much stronger for what we have endured together and how we reacted to it, dealt with it, and what we learned from it." Charles Sylvia, ECC, Vice President, Membership & Trade Relations in a newsletter to CLIA members, March 24, 2020.
There is hope for us to receive a future cruise again, the government hinted it would stand with and financially support the cruise industry, and “expect to be coming back to congress”.
“We want to work with the cruise line industry to ensure that when we come through this, that cruise lines and the medical services that are available for the passengers and all the crew, that cruise lines are safer than ever before and can prosper for years to come,” Vice President Mike Pence said.
The cruise industry is an essential and robust industry, we saw that during the financial crisis. I am convinced we will recover shortly after the virus. Despite these difficult times, there are arising opportunities for cruise lovers, as cruise lines are offering the best cruise prices ever, combined with very flexible cancellation conditions. Our mission at Cruisewatch is to help cruisers cease them. Our products are being enhanced to adapt the ongoing events, and enable our customers to gain more control and flexibility in their future cruise search.
We have received increasing demand from cruise lovers asking for solutions to the current crisis, and we will keep working on our product to provide the best service. Although the future of cruising is uncertain, we try to offer some sense of positivity and control in your cruise search through our enhanced products.
- Cruise ship tracker: In the current crisis, locating cruise ships is a great asset to view the live status of sailings in port or at sea. This should help you stay up to date with your preferred cruise ships.
- Cruise price prediction: Although predicting cruises price is in our DNA, we don't need data to realize that now is the best time to book. Despite the crisis, prices are dropping and cruise lines are offering excellent cancellation policies and refunds for customers who have already booked, giving everybody a chance to make better cruising decisions in the near future.
- Cruise price alert: This tool will help you follow up on the price of interesting cruises by creating automatic price drop alerts. Although operations have been cancelled until the end of July, this feature will be a great asset when things get back to normal.
- Cruise vacancy prediction: With the help of data, we are able to predict sailings that are going to be sold out in the next 10 weeks before departure. We are reworking this feature to adapt the current events.
- Cruise booking: You can now book a cruise directly via cruisewatch.com. Combined with the price prediction service and the cruise price alert, we hope to help ease your booking experience.
The future of the cruise industry relies on a joint effort from all industry stakeholders, including us cruise lovers. We all have a part to play to ensure a future, not only in cruising, but because we care for our elders, and loved ones. And the only way is for everyone to stay safe.