Cruise lines around the world have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. When travel bans were issued in February and March, most cruise lines had no choice but to voluntarily suspend sailings until the health threat passed. Even the cruise ships that attempted to maintain operations were forced to stop after the CDC issued a no sail order on April 9 for all cruise ships over 250 passengers and crew.
Now empty cruise ships continue to drift listlessly, anchored out to sea or in ports. The entire industry is at a standstill. As Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruises, said bluntly on May 14, “2020 is a wasted year.”
Though Covid-19 will not cause permanent closure of the cruise industry, it’s still hard to predict how and when travelers can return to their favorite cruise ships for an enjoyable week at sea. Here’s the information we know so far.
CDC’s No Sail Order Extends to July 24
When the CDC renewed its No Sail Order on April 9, 2020, it stipulated the order must remain in effect until one of the following three developments occurred:
- The Secretary of Health and Human Services declares that Covid-19 is no longer a public health emergency
- The CDC Director rescinds or modifies the No Sail Order based on specific public health considerations
- 100 days elapse
Given that many states are still cautiously working to reopen their economies to prevent a secondary outbreak of the coronavirus, experts agree that it’s unlikely that the Secretary of Health and Human Services or CDC Director will change their recommendations before the 100-day mark of the No Sail Order. This means that cruises likely can’t resume until at least the end of July.
However, upon the 100 day mark on July 24, 2020, the CDC could extend the No Sail Order once again, depending on health and pandemic developments at that time.
Major Cruise Lines Make Tentative Plans to Resume Travel in August
Disney, Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines all have tentative plans to resume activity on specific cruise ships on August 1, shortly after the CDC’s No Sail Order is set to expire. Of course, those plans could quickly change if the No Sail Order is extended.
Carnival, the world’s largest cruise operator, has scheduled a phased reopening. On August 1, ships from Galveston, Texas and Miami, Florida will resume travel. Those ships include the Carnival Dream, Freedom, Vista, Horizon, Magic, and Sensation. All other North American and Australian homeport cruises are slated to resume on September 1.
Disney Cruise Line is using a similar method of phased reopening:
- Disney Dream: July 31
- Disney Fantasy: August 1
- Disney Magic: August 5
- Disney Wonder: September 18
Royal Caribbean, meanwhile, reports on its website that it has “decided to extend the suspension of sailings for our global fleet for all sailings through July 31, 2020. Our goal is to resume operations on August 1, 2020.” Norwegian Cruise Line is following the same protocol.
Of course, scheduling is only the first step. Cruise lines are also developing safety measures and coronavirus protocols to keep passengers healthy and prevent the transmission of infection.