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British Cruise Companies Extend Cancellations

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The newly-built P&O Cruises ship Iona at Meyer Papenburg

By Allan E. Jordan 04-23-2020 05:08:19

Europe’s summer vacation season appears to be in jeopardy despite the first steps by some countries to reopen following the COVID-19 pandemic. Cruise companies in the UK, including Cunard Line, Fred. Olsen Cruises and P&O Cruises, today became the latest lines to extend the current pause in operations.

Announcing the cancellation of cruises scheduled through the end of July 2020, P&O Cruises said in a statement, “We are so sorry not to be able to give our guests their summer holiday but the global situation and continued lockdown make it impossible to reintroduce sailings for the next few months.  Our ambition is to give our guests amazing holidays as soon as global guidelines will allow and we are working through the evolving advice, as well as restrictions in ports of call around the world, as we consider how we phase our ships back into service.”

Carnival Corporation's P&O Cruises brand operates six cruise ships and was scheduled to take delivery this spring on its largest ship, the 184,000 GT Iona, which is being built by Meyer Werft in Papenburg, Germany. In mid-March, Meyer moved the ship to Bremerhaven where she was to be completed and delivered for her May maiden voyage.

Cunard Line, another brand owned by Carnival, also announced today that it was canceling additional cruises. Its ships the Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria, which are both currently laid up in Southampton, England canceled their departures through July 31, 2020. The Queen Elizabeth, which had been scheduled to cruise in Alaska this summer and is currently idled in Manila Bay, canceled all her cruises through September 8, 2020.

“We would love nothing more than to bring our fleet back in to service, and give our guests the holidays they deserve and long for,” said Cunard president Simon Palethorpe in a prepared statement, “but with the lockdowns and travel restrictions in place around the world, this is simply not possible at this time.”

A third line focused on the British market, Fred. Olsen Cruises, yesterday took the unusual step of announcing it was extending its pause in sailings past the targeted May 23 resumption in sailing without establishing a new date for its cruises.  In a press release announcing the cancellations, Peter Deer, Fred. Olsen Cruises’ managing director, was quoted as saying, “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.” The company currently has its four cruise ships laid up in Scotland’s Firth of Forth, just outside the Port of Rosyth. Fred. Olsen also canceled sailings aboard its European river cruise ship, Brabant, which was scheduled for cruises including on the Rhine and Upper Danube.

These cancellation announcements by the British cruise companies are extending their target date for the resumption of service past that of other European cruise lines.  For example, in Germany, AIDA and TUI’s Mein Schiff fleet has targeted June 2020 to resume cruising as well as Pullmantur Cruises based in Spain. In Italy, both Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises also targeted June to resume service, while the leading river cruise companies, including AMA Waterways and Viking, previously announced they planned to resume trips at the beginning of July. Earlier in April, the North America cruise lines moved their target date for their first cruises to mid-June.

A series of factors are contributing to the ongoing uncertainty about when cruising will resume. In addition to the individual countries’ success in containment and mitigation of the virus, many ports around the world are closed to cruise ships and commercial air services have been greatly reduced. Due to these issues, along with the uncertainty over when people will feel comfortable traveling, industry observers forecast that possibly only a quarter to a third of the global cruise fleet will return to service in 2020.