Last updated on May 18, 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 (CSO) for Cruise Ships. In May 2021, the next two phases of the CSO were released. Following the technical instructions, ship operators are now in a position to conduct simulated voyages before resuming restricted passenger voyages.
This article will help cruisers understand the global impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, check the current status of 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 160 mio cases globally on May 17th, 2021. Click here to view the live status of the global outbreak.
In the United States, the current death toll is over 585k people. The number of confirmed cases has climbed to over 32 mio nationwide.Princess Cruises Regal Princess and Diamond Princess cruise shipshave been the first cruise ships who where particularly touched by the pandemic. Since then, several other cruise ships have had confirmed cases on board.
Source: screenshot from COVID-19 Surveillance Dashboard, May 18, 2021.
Coronavirus cruise ships tracker
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. Now the cruise industry is trying to rebuild after the coronavirus shutdown. Thanks to new instructions from the CDC, the development of stringent hygiene concepts and the progress on vaccinations, cruise lines are more optimistic to set sail in increasing numbers this summer.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. According to a press release from May 11th all sailings through and including July 30, 2021, are cancelled. However, the cruise line hopes to resume sailings in July of three ships from Florida and Texas, including Carnival Vista and Carnival Breeze from Galveston, and Carnival Horizon from Miami. Depending on the cruise line’s ability to sail to Alaska, the Carnival Miracle could operate cruises by July from Washington.Guests whose cruises are canceled are entitled to a future cruise credit, an onboard credit or a full refund. Passengers can check out their sailing status on Carnival’s website.
Royal Caribbean Cruises extend the suspension of sailings through June 30th, 2021 for the majority of their fleet. However, there are some exceptions regarding the resumption of sailings in July, including sailings onboard Quantum, Anthem, Adventure, Vision, Jewel, and Odyssey of the Seas.
Beginning in June 2021, the Vision of the Seas will offer sailings from Bermuda, the Jewel of the Seas will start cruises from Limassol, Cyprus and the Adventure of the Seas will resume sailings from Nassau, Bahamas.
European sailings with the Anthem of the Seas have been put on hold. Instead the ship will offer sailings from Southampton for UK residents only. The Quantum of the Seas' Alaska sailings will be cancelled as the ship will remain in the Asia-Pacific region. The planned sailings with the Odyssey of the Seas out of Haifa, Israel starting in May are cancelled due to the unrest in Israel and the region.
If a sailing is cancelled by the COVID-19 operations suspension, Royal Caribbean offers different refund options. The cruise line provides a 125% Future Cruise Credit for future sailings with them by September 30th, 2022. The re-booking must be completed by April 30th, 2022. Moreover, existing booking can be moved to a similar sailing next year. Guests can also get a full refund which they can expect 45 days after submitting their request.
Norwegian Cruise Lines cancellation policy - Peace of Mind
NCL is also extending suspension for twelve of their cruise ships, such as those for Pride of America and Norwegian Bliss through July 31, 2021. Many other fall voyages on multiple ships across the fleet are suspended as well.
The five remaining ships, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Jade, and Norwegian Joy, are returning to sail in the Caribbean and Mediterranean in August and September and are bookable now. Norwegians’ Health & Safety Programme includes mandatory vaccination requirements for all guests and crew on all sailings through October 31, 2021.Guests who are affected by a cancellation will automatically receive a refund as well as a 10% off coupon added to the guest's account. You can also receive a Future Cruise Credit for suspended sailings which can be used for a voyage in the next year. Besides these different refund options, the cruise line also offers a "Break Free" 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.
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 and shares have since been recovering. The Carnival Cruise Lines stock has recovered about half of its pre-pandemic value, and is up more than 28% so far in 2021. For Royal Caribbean the shares have more than quadrupled off the pandemic-era low. Also Norwegian Cruise Lines shares have been recovering and hit a year-to-date high near $35 in February 2021. 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 with the current developments on the part of the CDC, CLIA’s president and CEO foresees an end:
“Over the past eight months, a highly-controlled resumption of cruising has continued in Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific—with nearly 400,000 passengers sailing to date in more than 10 major cruise markets. These voyages were successfully completed with industry-leading protocols that have effectively mitigated the spread of COVID-19. Additional sailings are planned in the Mediterranean and Caribbean later this spring and summer,” said Kelly Craighead, CLIA’s President and CEO in a press release from March 24, 2021.
In March 2020, the government hinted it would stand with and financially support the cruise industry. However, cruise lines were excluded from the coronavirus relief package. Concerning the rescue package, cruise lines have not lobbied for a bailout. Bari Golin-Blaugrund, a spokesperson for CLIA stated: “CLIA and our members agree that the most important stimulus the government can provide on behalf of the wider cruise community in the United States is help for small- and medium-size businesses, including a vast network of travel agencies, tour operators and suppliers, with a presence in all 50 states.”
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.