Cunard Line Extends Suspension to One Year, Canceling Long Voyages

coronavirus causes cancellation of longer cruises
Cunard Queen Mary 2 will have been idle for one year before she resumes cruising

Published Aug 25, 2020 8:27 PM by The Maritime Executive

Uncertainty over world port access and the potential for ongoing travel restrictions forced two of Carnival Corporation’s cruise lines to extend their cancelations well into 2021. Some of the cruises are being canceled till mid-2021 which would be more than a year since the March 2020 global suspension of cruising. The cruise lines are also working to reformulate their programs to keep ships closer to their home markets.

The venerated Cunard Line, which has operated since 1840, became the first cruise line to extend its cancelations well into 2021 while most cruise lines have currently only canceled sailings till the end of 2020. Cunard also announced a revised deployment plan for its future operations. Prior to the onset of the novel coronavirus, Cunard had been planning long duration cruises from England sailing to Australia, Asia and around the world. Indeed, when cruising was suspended in March 2020, Cunard's three cruise ships were all sailing in Asia. The Queen Mary 2 suspended its world cruise in Australia flying most passengers home from Perth. Ultimately the ships made extended voyages back to England and the Queen Elizabeth, which had been positioned in Australia before planned cruises to Alaska, recently also returned to England after disembarking the majority of its crew in the Philippines.

In today’s announcement, Cunard extended its pause in operations from November 2020 until March 25, 2021 for its ship Queen Elizabeth; until April 18, 2021 for Queen Mary 2; and until May 16, 2021 for Queen Victoria. Among the voyages being canceled are Cunard’s annual world cruises. Cunard’s ships will have been idled for a year under the current plan and the company is not scheduling its next world cruise until January 2022.

Cunard’s most significant move however comes for its vessel the Queen Elizabeth which had been scheduled to return to Asia, Australia, Japan and Alaska. Cunard canceled all planned cruises on this ship through December 13, 2021. Reflecting the uncertainties over long distance travel and extended voyages and a belief that travelers will be unwilling to make those types of trip, Cunard plans to introduced a new program of shorter duration European cruises. The new program for the Queen Elizabeth will range between three and 14 nights sailing from Southampton to be followed by a Mediterranean cruise program from Barcelona.

Cunard’s decision to cancel its longer cruises followed a similar decision by Holland America Line. In July, when the sale of four Holland America Line ships was announced, the company also said that it would be postponing some of its longer voyages. Among the tips Holland America canceled was its January 2021 world cruise.

Late today another one of Carnival Corporation’s cruise lines, Princess Cruises, also followed suit. Citing restrictions and limitations with border and port access and the continued uncertainty of airline travel, Princess Cruises cancelled its long cruises for the beginning of 2021 including both a world cruise as well as a cruise around South America.

While the cruise lines are hopeful that they will be able to continue the gradual resumption of service that has begun with sailings from Germany, France and Italy, they recognize that travelers may be hesitant or unable to make the longer cruises that take them far from home.