Althought the ongoing coronavirus pandemic continues to halt most travel around the globe -- including cruising in the U.S. -- there are glimmers of hope in Europe, specifically the U.K.
Although three big ship cruise lines -- MSC Cruises, which set out on its first COVID-era sailing in mid-August from Italy; Costa and AIDA -- all started cruising last summer, it is the U.K. on which the lines have set their sights for a major restart for this summer.
At time of writing, at least 10 lines including Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Princess Cruises, Viking and Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean have announced round-Britain cruises starting as soon as May 20, 2021 (you can read the full list here).
On the other side of the pond, the picture is not quite as rosy, however. Although the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finally lifted its No-Sail order in late October, technically allowing lines to restart, the Conditional Sail Order, with its strict set of health protocols, has raised many more questions than answers and all the major lines have suspended sailings until deep into 2021.
With no movement coming, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) called on the CDC to drop the order and allow a phased resumption of cruising from U.S. ports by the beginning of July. In response, the agency simply reiterated its former position that the order "remains in effect until Nov. 1, 2021. Returning to passenger cruising is a phased approach to mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19. Details for the next phase of the CSO are currently under interagency review."
We've been staying on top of the situation, updating our stories with that information along with cruise line responses and changes to cancellation policies, and affected ports and cruise ships.
Read on for a wrap-up of how the virus is affecting cruise, ways you can protect yourself, and tools and resources for staying abreast of this fast-developing situation.
How will it affect cruise planning?
On March 13, 2021, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) announced its member lines has suspended operations for 30 days; subsequent delays saw that pushed back to "at least" October 31 for cruises out of the United States. Technically, lines can now operate from the U.S. -- but with many restrictions.
Most cruise lines have cancelled to spring 2021, with others suspending as far as summer.
Other lines have surprised cruisers by sending well-loved ships to the scrapyard. Recent months have seen Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Inspiration beached, along with the former Sovereign and Monarch of the Seas.
A handful of smaller cruise lines, including Cruise and Maritime Voyages and Spanish-operator Pullmantur have gone bankrupt.
Now, the good news: many lines are extending the validity of Future Cruise Credits (FCC's) for canceled cruises well into next year and beyond, with some lines allowing cruisers to rebook voyages into 2023.
Travel restrictions continue to be problematic as of march 2021. Much of where cruisers will be able to travel and when will depend on their nationality and restrictions in place at their destination and their country of residence. The US-Canadian border continues to be closed.
How are cruise lines changing their cancellation policies?
Because the situation is evolving, many cruise lines have adopted more flexible cancellation policies, allowing passengers to cancel cruises in some cases up to 48 hours before scheduled departure.
Many cruise lines are offering the option of purchasing additional COVID-19 cancellation insurance on new cruise bookings, and some have relaxed policies around refundable deposits and even final payment schedules in order to give cruisers additional peace of mind.
**To find out how cruise lines are handling cancellations, read Cruise Critic's article on flexible policies.
How are cruise ports reacting?
Virtually every port in the world is temporarily closed to cruise traffic, however, a number are gradually reopening.
**Read the latest information on which ports are closed and for how long.
Where can I learn more?
Cruise Critic answers frequently asked questions about what cruisers need to know.
Additionally, Here’s a roundup of resources for learning more about COVID-19:
By region and country: