More Cruises Postponed as Industry Awaits CDC Announcement

Princess, Hurtigruten, Virgin cancel cruises
Pacific Princes in Sydney harbor prior to the pandemic - courtesy Princess Cruises

Published Oct 27, 2020 8:34 PM by The Maritime Executive

While hope has been slowly rising that the cruise industry might be nearing its resumption of service, additional cruises are being canceled as global authorities continue to fear that cruise ships might contribute to the feared winter resurgence of the coronavirus.  While the industry anxiously awaits official word from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later this week, other cruise lines have extended their cancellations due to the uncertainty over international travel and long-distance air travel.

Princes Cruises became the latest cruise line to announce that it was extending its pause in operations for cruises sailing from Australia and New Zealand. The line, which is part of Carnival Corporation, announced that it is extending its pause in operations for cruises departing from Australia and New Zealand through May 31, 2021.

The decision to extend the pause comes as Carnival Corporation continues to reshape its brands to prepare for a gradual resumption of operations. Two cruise ships were scheduled to transfer from Princess Cruises in North America to P&O Cruises in Australia in 2021. The companies recently announced that they would be accelerating the transition with the Golden Princess and the Star Princess moving immediately to Australia to become the Pacific Adventure and Pacific Encounter. Carnival is also completing the sale of two older, smaller cruise ships previously operated by P&O Australia as part of the effort they announced to downsize the corporate fleet and improve performance.

As in other parts of the globe, there have been increasing calls within Australia to permit a resumption of cruising. One niche cruise line, Coral Expeditions resumed sailing this week in Australia with its 72-passenger cruise ship the Coral Discoverer. Several other cruise lines have expressed interest in starting cruises dedicated to Australians or possibly between Australia and New Zealand.

Norway’s Hurtigruten, however, also decided to cancel all of its expedition cruises scheduled to the Antarctic between January and March 2021. The company cited the difficulties with international travel and the uncertainties during the first part of 2021. Hurtigruten, however, reports that it sees a rebound in demand for expedition cruising in the second half of 2021. 

The company, which is still working to overcome the problems it had in the summer of 2020 after a COVID-19 outbreak related to one of its expedition cruises, announced that it would introduce new itineraries including UK-based cruises and its first full season in Alaska as well as separating its operation into two companies. One company will focus on the historical coastal operations in Norway while the other will be dedicated to expedition cruising.

While many of the largest cruise lines have remained silent about their plans awaiting a further announcement from the CDC, some brands have already quietly extended their pause. Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages, which is yet to make its first commercial voyage, sent out alerts to travel agents delaying its target date to resume cruises until January 2021.

Currently, the CDC’s no sail order for cruise ships sailing from the United States is due to expire on October 31 after having been extended just one month at the end of September. Recently, the CDC, however, renewed its warnings against cruise ship travel, while there is no official word as of yet on the status of the no sail order. Even if the no sail order is permitted to expire on Friday, the major cruise lines have said it would take them upwards of 60 days to prepare a ship for a restart in operations. Carnival Cruise Line faces an additional hurdle of a court order to recertify each of its ship's environmental compliance as they return to US waters after the pause.