Here are 6 breaking cruise news stories that you need to know about, including why cruise cancellations are gathering pace despite the lifting of the USA no-sail order, Viking cruises announce a big first for cruising, why Europe cruises are now shutting down again, why Key West are saying no to most cruises ships and what countries are opening to cruise ships right now.
2020 Cancelled. Lots of 2021 Too?
First of all, the fall out of the US CDC letting the no-sail order lapse on 31 October and replacing it with their “Framework For Conditional Sailing” has become ever more clear.
Cruise lines have now cancelled all their USA cruises until at least the end of the year, as they digest and work through the fairly demanding requirements. But, don’t start planning to cruise early in 2021, as the lines are strongly signalling that more cancellations into 2021 are highly likely. And they may go on for longer than many cruisers think. Why do I say that?
First of all, Kelly Craighead, President & CEO of CLIA (the cruise line association) issued a statement on 3 November that said (and I quote) “CLIA’s ocean-going cruise line members have decided to extend our current suspension of operations in the U.S. through at least the end of December. We will evaluate over the next 30 days whether to extend that further’’
Note the statement says they have extended suspension though to “at least the end of December” and that they will evaluate over the next 30 days whether to extend further. Hinting that it is likely.
Shortly afterwards, Richard Fain who runs the Royal Caribbean Group, which includes Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara and Silversea, made a video talking to travel agents and said that while the CDC’s decision to provide a framework for cruises to restart is a big step, it is not the end of the cruise shutdown saga.
He went on to say (and I quote) “It will take some time to go from where we are to our first commercial sailings….but it will take some time because the order calls for a lot of details that will need to be specified, clarified or adjusted over the coming period.” In addition, he pointed out it will take time to reposition ships, get crew back, quarantine them, train them, restock ships and then run the test cruises.
The industry appears to be trying to set expectations that cruisers should be prepared for some delay.
If you want to know more about why this replacement to the no-sail order looks challenging for cruise lines watch my video covering this.
Of course while lines work through the new framework and stages, cruisers like me are getting reminders that final balances are due for January cruises that look increasingly unlikely to be able to sail. So, I am trying to decide what to do. Most likely I will use the “lift and shift” option to push my January cruise out a few months.
Key West Closes To Cruise Ships
Secondly there is more big news about limits on cruising in the United States.
Key West voted on three referendum questions when they went to the polls, all of which proposed major curtails to cruising there. Voters overwhelming agreed to drastic cuts in cruise visits to the port with over 60% agreeing with each of the proposed curbs.
The changes are: only 1,500 passengers can disembark in Key West per day, they will prohibit ships carrying more than 1,300 people, both crew and passengers, from even calling there and will prioritise ships with better environmental footprints.
We should expect the legality of this to be challenged in court as Pier B Development Corporation, owner of one of three cruise docks in Key West, have indicated they will challenge it. The other ports in Key West are owned by the city and the Navy. So definitely one to watch to see how this plays out, and if the popular Key West call will have be dropped off cruise itineraries in 2021 and beyond
Viking Installs Testing Laboratory
One of the key CDC requirements in their “Framework For Conditional Sailing” is for cruise lines to build on-board capacity for testing of crew and passengers. Travellers out of USA ports have to be tested before boarding pier side and also before disembarking.
The first major announcement was made in recent days on this. Viking cruises confirmed that it has completed installation of the first full-scale PCR laboratory at sea. This new onboard facility enables Viking to conduct PCR testing of all crew members and guests. The laboratory has enough capacity for daily testing of every crew member and guest. The first laboratory was installed on Viking Star.
No doubt we will be hearing much about developments like this from Viking and the other cruise lines over coming weeks and months.
Europe Cruise Shutdown
Meantime in Europe, the surge in Covid cases and return to lockdown in many countries, has caused more disruptions, cancellations of cruises that had resumed by German and Italian lines, and some new Covid outbreak issues.
The lines catering for German travellers have been most active in cancelling, due to Germany’s stricter lockdown where non-essential travel for recreation purposes is not allowed.
Carnival’s AIDA line has paused all cruises planned for November, as has the Royal Caribbean part-owned Hapag-Lloyd line while their other part-owned line, Mein Schiff, has cancelling its remaining 2020 cruise program from Kiel with the Mein Schiff 1, which was sailing cruises to nowhere, featuring all sea days.
Lines say they will reassess based on when Germany lifts it’s lockdown.
Carnival’s other European line, Costa which caters for Italian guests, has changed itineraries and dropped calls in France and Spain that were due to commence in mid-November due to the level of cases and lockdowns in those countries. They will only call on Italian ports now.
This is possible despite Italy moving to stricter Covid restrictions rules. While early drafts of the restrictions reportedly had a navigation ban for passenger ships, this was removed before they were announced. The country has said they will let cruise ships operate based on health and safety protocols previously approved in August.
Meanwhile, a Covid outbreak on the Jacques-Cartier ship operated by French luxury line Ponant, led to that cruise being refused entry into Italy. 13 people tested positive among the 60 passengers and 93 crew. The ship was eventually allowed to sail to Marseille in France, in agreement with the French health authorities, for people to disembark and be cared for.
So, as I discussed in my last update, the trend of the virus means lines, and passengers, are having to adapt sailings based on changing travel advice, the situations in port and keep tight control of protocols designed to minimise the risks of outbreaks on ships when they do resume.
It’s still unpredictable times even when cruises resume. Something we need to consider and bear in mind for when cruises do resume out of USA Ports.
Other Countries Open
Japan is joining Singapore and Taiwan in resuming cruises in a limited way. The no-sail order there expired at the end of October and local operators have started trials of short cruises calling on domestic ports.
One of the first was the Nippon Maru, run by Mitsui O.S.K Passenger Lines who sailed with 200 guests and 100 crew on a 3-night cruise. So it is small scale but another country tentatively opening cruising.
Cruising out of the UK, meantime, remains on hold with no real signs that this will change anytime soon. Most lines have cancelled into spring, with lines based there like Cunard scheduled to only starting sailing from end of April.
Saga, the UK-based line that caters for the 50+ market, you have to be at least 50 to cruise with them, has pushed back the inaugural sailing of their new ship, Spirit of Adventure, to May 4th and its sister ship, Spirit of Discovery, to end April. They cited the trend of cases and the expected seasonal nature of the virus.
With England entering another month long lockdown until December, all travel both domestic and international for recreational reasons has been outlawed. So, things look to remain on hold here for a while.
Those are the 6 biggest news stories breaking that I felt you need to know about, and what I think they mean for us as cruise lovers
ABOUT TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS
Gary Bembridge’s Tips For Travellers aims to help you make more of your precious travel time and money on land and when cruising the oceans or rivers of the world. To help you, in every video I draw on my first-hand tips and advice from travelling every month for over 20 years and average of 10 cruises a year.
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