Cruise Industry Continues to Extend Pause till Spring 2021

cruise lines continue to delay resumption of cruising
Queen Mary 2 is now not expected to reach the United States before the summer of 2021

Published Dec 9, 2020 3:07 PM by The Maritime Executive

The cruise industry continues to face near-term uncertainties forcing it to further extend its pause in operations. While many people had hoped that cruising might resume in more parts of the world by year’s end, it now appears that the spring or summer of 2021 is becoming the target for many cruise lines.

In the latest blow to the cruise industry, Australia’s health minister announced that the country would be extending its limitations on international travel, including cruises, for another three months. The extension of the country’s biosecurity measures till at least mid-March 2021 includes restrictions on all outbound international travel by airplane or cruise ship as well as prohibiting the arrival of international cruise ships. 

The Australian cruise industry had been calling for actions similar to the United States, establishing a path towards a resumption of cruising. The December to March period covered in the latest announcement is traditional the summer high season for Australian travel with cruises both originating from the major ports as well as numerous international visitors. While Australia has been successful with much of its containment efforts for the virus, the health minister pointed out that the disease is spreading as quickly as ever. As such, he said they felt they had no choice but to extend the ban effectively ending the hopes for a 2021 cruise season in Australia.

In the UK, while the first vaccinations have begun, Cunard Line, however announced that it was extending the pause in its operations. The Carnival Corporation brand citing the ongoing restrictions on cruising in the UK and around the world, delayed the return of its flagship, the Queen Mary 2, till May 28, 2021, and its Queen Elizabeth till June 4, 2021. The line had previously announced that it would reposition ships staying closer to the UK and Europe, except for its trans-Atlantic crossings, and scheduled its third cruise ship, the Queen Victoria, to return to service on May 17, 2021. The cruise line will have been out of service for fourteen months before it returns to service.

Saying they are “extremely optimistic about what the future holds for our brand next year,” Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages has also rescheduled its target dates for its entry into commercial service. The much-anticipated launch had been scheduled for the spring of 2020, but the line suspended operations during previews and before the first paying passengers sailed. The line’s first ship, the Scarlet Lady has been rescheduled for her entry into service on May 9, 2021, from Miami to the Caribbean.

Virgin Voyages has three additional cruise ships being built in Italy. The second cruise ship, named the Valiant Lady, had been scheduled to cruise in the Mediterranean in the summer of 2021. Virgin has now rescheduled her entry into service till November 14, 2021, announcing she will also start sailing from Miami to the Caribbean before the first Mediterranean cruises now scheduled for the summer of 2022.

The largest cruise lines, including Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International, as well as others including Disney Cruise Line, have also continued to extend their pause in operations.  All of the lines are now targeting March and the spring of 2021 for their first cruises from the United States, while some ships will remain out of service for a longer period. Discussing its plans for a gradual, phased-in return to operations in 2021, Carnival Cruise Line announced today that two ships, the Carnival Magic and Carnival Valor will not return to service till September 2021.