Further Cruise Cancellations Impact Alaska

Credit: Princess Cruises
Credit: Princess Cruises

Published Apr 14, 2020 8:06 PM by Allan E. Jordan

The cruise industry is further delaying its planned return to service reacting to the ongoing public health emergency and resulting “No Sail Order” amended last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Holland America Line and Princess Cruises were among the cruise lines announcing today that they would extend the pause in operations.  

Princess Cruises, which suffered several high profile outbreaks of the COVID-19 virus aboard its ships, had been among the first to announce a suspension of operations in March, originally planned to last for 60 days. Princess Cruises is now canceling all voyages through June 30, 2020.

Other lines also owned by Carnival Corporation issued similar announcements on Tuesday. Holland America Line will also delay the start of its Alaska, Europe, and Canada and New England cruise seasons through June 30, 2020. Seabourn Cruise Line will also extend its pause in global operations for its five cruise ships through June 30, 2020.

These announcements will be especially difficult for Alaska tourism and the State’s economy, which is heavily dependent on the summer cruise season. According to projections from the industry trade group CLIA Alaska, over 600 voyages had been scheduled for Alaska in 2020 expected to carry more than 1.4 million passengers and amount to $793 million in visitor spending.

Holland America and Princess are the largest cruise operators in Alaska. In addition to delaying the resumption of service, both cruise lines announced the cancellation of their land programs scheduled for the Alaskan cruise market in 2020. Princess said that the five wilderness lodges, trains and buses it operates in Alaska would not open this summer. Princess canceled its Alaska Gulf cruise and cruise tours saying that it plans only to operate round-trip sailings from Seattle to Alaska aboard the Emerald Princess and the Ruby Princess.

Holland America also canceled its land programs in Alaska as well the 2020 Alaska cruises scheduled for its ships: Maasdam; Volendam; Oosterdam; Noordam; and Westerdam. Holland America plans to operate seven-day round-trip Alaska cruises in 2020 on the Eurodam and Koningsdam.

With the port of Seattle having suspended cruise operations and Canada announcing that its ports will be closed until July 1, several other cruise lines have also delayed or canceled scheduled Alaskan cruises. Previously, both Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises had confirmed that they would delay their Alaskan cruises until July 1 when they also announced extensions of their global suspensions till mid-May. Disney Cruise Line says that all departures on the Disney Wonder have been, “suspended through June, given that neither the Port of Vancouver nor an alternate homeport is available.”  

Similarly, Norwegian Cruise Line, which had planned to expand its operations in Alaska in 2020, this week canceled all the scheduled Alaskan cruises for its Norwegian Sun announcing the ship will remain idle till November 2020 before repositioning to Port Canaveral to sail short cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean. However, Norwegian plans to continue to sail in Alaska this summer offering reduced fares for cruises aboard the Norwegian Joy, the Norwegian Bliss, and the Norwegian Jewel.

The worldwide impact on the coronavirus also has caused Windstar Cruises to alter 2020 schedules, including its scheduled Alaska cruises. Windstar’s cruise ship the Star Breeze is currently at a Fincantieri shipyard in Italy undergoing a significant reconstruction including lengthening the ship. With work suspended in Italy, Windstar announced today that it is canceling all the West Coast and Alaska cruises scheduled for the Star Breeze. After completing the renovations, Windstar says the ship will spend the summer of 2020 sailing in the Mediterranean before heading to Australia in the fall.

These announcements delaying the planned resumption in cruise service came a day after Carnival Cruise Line said that it would postpone its resumption of service until June 27, 2020.  

While the cruise industry continues to work with the CDC to develop an acceptable plan for resuming cruise operations, most observers expect that other cruise lines will join the growing number of companies delaying the return to service past mid-May. It is also anticipated that the cruise ships return to service will be gradual, working with the airlines and local authorities, while also seeking to restore travelers’ confidence in cruising.