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Coronavirus: Updated Cruise Ship Policies and Cancellations Because of COVID-19 (2021)
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Carnival Vista (Photo: Carnival)
Carnival Vista (Photo: Carnival)

Cruise Lines Start Outlining Return to Service Plans

Carnival Vista (Photo: Carnival)
Carnival Vista (Photo: Carnival)

May 05, 2020

Aaron Saunders
Senior Editor, News and Features

(Updated 11:44 a.m. EDT) – In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has paused cruise operations globally since March, several lines are starting to release their plans to gradually return to service.

Because there is no one-size-fits-all approach to re-entering service, these re-entry plans can differ quite a bit from line to line and even from region to region. The one common thread, however, is that all lines say they are working in conjunction with governmental health and regulatory bodies to develop policies that ensure that this return to service will be safe for passengers and crew alike.

We have developed a comprehensive list of lines that have announced details about their resumption of cruising service, outlined below. Note that all information here is highly subject to change. This page will be updated with additional cruise lines as new information becomes available.

A full list of anticipated resumption of service dates for lines that haven't yet released detailed plans for can be found here.

American Cruise Lines

American Constitution (Photo: America Cruise Lines)
American Constitution (Photo: America Cruise Lines)

Expected Return to Service: Staggered, beginning in June

Details: American Cruise Lines has indicated it could restart at least some operations by mid-to-late June. Operating entirely within the United States, its fleet of 12 small river and coastal vessels all carry well under the 250 people (passengers and crew) and as such aren't subjected to the rules imposed by the revised CDC guidelines in effect through July 24, 2020. Still, the company indicates that any return to service will be in a measured, cautious capacity that ensures the safety of all guests and crew.

“American Cruise Lines is prepared to meet the operating challenges presented by COVID-19, but will remain paused until it is prudent," Charles B. Robertson, President & CEO of American Cruise Lines, told Cruise Critic. "We currently expect cruises to resume this June, but we are prepared to adapt, as the global situation changes. Exploring close to home may be new for some, but it has been our focus for more than 30 years."

American Queen Steamboat Company

American Empress
American Empress

Expected Return to Service: Staggered, beginning June 22

Details: American Queen Steamboat Company plans to resume operations on June 22, with American Empress sailing along the Columbia and Snake Rivers from Portland, Oregon (though the ship actually docks in nearby Vancouver, WA). American Duchess will return to the Mississippi River shortly after that. American Queen notes that American Empress will initially sail under-capacity in order to comply with CDC regulations in effect until late-July.

"We plan to relaunch the American Empress on the Columbia and Snake Rivers June 22, 2020 and are thrilled to welcome back our loyal AQSC guests to the Pacific Northwest," said American Queen Steamboat Company chairman and CEO John Waggoner. "Our top priority remains the wellbeing of our guests, crew, vendors and travel agent partners. We have updated our already high standards for health and safety and will continue to take the necessary steps to ensure that when government regulations and community partners allow our operations to resume, guests can cruise with confidence and enjoy the same premier standards of any AQSC experience that they have come to expect."

Carnival Cruise Line

Exterior on Carnival Breeze
Exterior on Carnival Breeze

Expected Return to Service: Staggered, beginning Aug 1

Details: Carnival plans to return eight of its 27-ship fleet to service on August 1, sailing from three North American homeports: Galveston, Miami and Port Canaveral (Orlando). These ships will operate primarily four-to-eight-day cruises to the Caribbean. Carnival states it intends to use the intervening time between now and August to develop protocols in conjunction with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local authorities.

It expects the remainder of the fleet to return to service beginning September 1. Voyages to Alaska aboard Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend are cancelled through 2020. 


MS Fridtjof  Nansen  (Photo: Oscar Farrera/Hurtigruten)
MS Fridtjof Nansen (Photo: Oscar Farrera/Hurtigruten)

Expected Return to Service: Late June / Early July

Details: Norwegian cruise, ferry and expedition line Hurtigruten is cautiously optimistic it can resume its Norwegian coastal cruise voyages – which perform a necessary dual role in bringing cargo and ferry traffic to some of Norway's most remote locales – beginning in late June or early July.

Hurtigruten also hopes to restart expeditions to Arctic Svalbard – much of which takes place in Norwegian waters – around the same time.

Because of its vital link to the Norwegian coast, Hurtigruten has kept two of its ships sailing for locals and cargo. Its other 13 vessels are currently "warm stacked" – a term for temporary layup – until further notice.

Company CEO Daniel Skjeldam notes that the company is taking careful, measured steps to ensure that Hurtigruten returns when the time is right and when necessary safety protocols have been put into place.

Lindblad Expeditions

Exterior shot of National Geographic Sea Lion anchored in port from a tendering ship
National Geographic Sea Lion (Photo: Brittany Chrusciel/Cruise Critic)

Expected Return to Service: "Q3"

Details: Lindblad Expeditions – which operates a fleet of small expedition and coastal ships in Alaska, the Galapagos, and the world's Polar regions – says it hopes to return to service in the third quarter of this year (July to September).

 The line notes that many of its itineraries, particularly in Alaska and the polar regions, focus more on wilderness destination and only typically utilize ports of call at the beginning and end of most voyages.

CEO Sven Lindblad stated that demand for bookings is high, particularly in 2021 but noted that it is still seeing demand for 2020. Lindblad also noted that the ability to test passengers and crew at embarkation is essential, and that Lindblad was working to secure those along with charter air options for passengers to avoid the use of commercial air flights.

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