Cruise Shutdown: What To Do About Cruise Bookings and Plans

Cruise Shutdown: What To Do About Cruise Bookings and Plans

With everything going on in cruising at the moment, and the cruising shutdown, I’ve decided I’m not going to post any regular cruising content until the shutdown clearly ending and life starts to come back to normal. However, I’m getting lots of questions from people, asking what they should be doing regarding their current and future bookings, and a whole bunch of other questions which I’ve been happy to answer. I’ve been doing that so far by email, but I though it might be helpful to share the answers to some of those questions that I’m getting, and post them here for people who might also be interested.

How soon can we cruise again?

Firstly, I wanted to address the question I’m getting asked the most: how soon can we go back cruising, and what specifically should people be doing about their bookings for the next few months and then for later in the year, as they start to pay final deposits. Also, whether people should be booking to take advantage of some of the deals and special offers that are being offered at the moment. I have cruises planned for every month for the rest of the year, so this is a very active topic for me too. So let’s take a look at where we are at the moment very briefly before I answer that.

The current situation

First of all, as we know, cruising is shut down. The initial period that most cruise lines shut down for was until middle of April, and at time of writing that has been extended to mid-May. A couple of others have gone even further than that already like Virgin Voyages are now going to launch at the end of July, and Avalon will only start European river cruising at that time too.

Secondly, most of the airlines have largely closed down operations, and fleets are grounded right through into May at least.

Thirdly of course, governments are asking people to stay home if they’re residents, and many are not letting non-residents in. A lot of borders are being closed; travel insurance is largely locked down – it’s very hard to get – and of course ports all around the world have closed down. So that’s where we are at this time.

Princess Cruises Caribbean Princess in Cohb Ireland

Looking to the future

As we look ahead, I think that this cruising shutdown will last longer than May for many reasons, and could be many months to come. First of all, because as we can see, the lockdown and the things that are happening in terms of the importance of staying at home, self-isolation, etc is something that governments have been really clear is going to carry on for a period of time. So I think it’s very unlikely that people are going to be moving freely again by May or June. Also, airlines are not going to be around to get you to cruises in May and possibly June as well. Plus, you’re not going to be able to get travel insurance. Government advisories are going to stay in place for residents to stay at home and they’re not going to let foreigners in for some time. We have seen big events, concerts, festivals and sports events, including the Olympics, due in July and August being cancelled or postponed to next year.

Also – and importantly – it’s may be difficult to get the crew back, particularly if they have moving back home off their ships, and they probably won’t be coming back that early, as quite a few regions are closed. If you look at Canada, for example, they have already announced that all their ports are closed to ships over 500 passengers until the end of June. New Zealand is the same, Australia iis closed already for cruises until mid-June, and most of the ports in Asia are closed with no plans to reopen. Increasingly I think we’re going to see the timeline for ports opening is going to be more like the Canadian and New Zealand timeline, than perhaps everybody else is hoping.

The challenges ahead

As we head into April and May, normally the cruising season moves out of the Caribbean – which is where the bulk of the ships currently are – and moves to the Mediterranean, and these ships are not able to make that move now or in the near future to get up and running in the Mediterranean and Europe.

Another absolutely critical point is that in the whole run up to this shutdown, there was strong advice for people over 70 not to go cruising, and I don’t think there’s any sign of that being lifted anytime soon. So certainly if you’re over 70 or heading towards the age of 70, cruise lines were already asking that you get medical certificates saying that it was okay for you to travel.

What to do if you have booked a cruise

So let’s get specific – if you have a booking in the next few months what should you do? I’m just sitting tight and waiting. We have no idea what’s going to happen with the shutdown – everything is up in the air, but what we do know is that the cruise lines are absolutely inundated with people trying to chop and change and cancel. Cruise lines are offering cancellation right up to 48 hours before you embark. Airlines are also offering cancellation and amendment at really short notice for those flights they haven’t cancelled. So, I’m actually doing nothing regarding my bookings. I’m just letting them sit there and waiting to see what happens. This also means that I’m not putting more stress and strain on the cruise lines which are madly trying to solve the problems they’ve got and really focusing on cruises as they come up.

Personally, I’m pretty convinced we will not be able to cruise until end of summer at the earliest. But at this stage, I’m just waiting and will make decisions closer to the time, because I do have the flexibility, and also because the cruise lines and airlines are basically saying that you can cancel at short notice. So I would say, just hold back and wait, let things calm down, then as it gets closer to your cruise make a decision. I’ve set myself a date, about a week to 10 days before each of my bookings where I’ll decide what to do. Of course, if you’re over the age of 70, or you have financial concerns, I would go in and cancel those right now, just for reassurance.

Fred Olsen Cruise Lines Balmoral

Will I lose my money?

I’ve had a lot of emails and questions from people who are about to pay their final deposit. Normally you’d pay your last chunk of money 90 days before a cruise, and historically, that has not been refundable – you would usually lose 75 – 100% of that. And actually, one of the big concerns that people have is : should I pay because I’m concerned – with everything going on – that these cruise lines are going to go bust. Personally, I’m less concerned about the bankruptcy element, and I’ll tell you why – if you look at the three biggest companies, there’s Carnival Corporation, which of course own many of the brands, from Holland America, Princess, AIDA, Carnival, P&O, P&O Australia… just loads of cruise lines; then you’ve got Royal Caribbean, which of course is Royal Caribbean, but also Silversea, Celebrity, Azamara… Then you’ve got Norwegian Cruise Line, which as well as as Norwegian, has Oceania and Regent Seven Seas. These are very big corporations, in fact I believe Carnival is not only the biggest cruise company, but the biggest travel company in the world. These are vast, complicated businesses and I believe that not only do they have the resources there, but I think it’s very unlikely that although governments will not support them directly, as they are incorporated in tax haven countries, private sector finance will (and has been) helping them stay liquid to get through the shutdown. Their value to the economy with all the connected businesses is so vast that I think a way will be found to keep them going if things do get tight.

Also, bear in mind that these companies have huge assets in the ships that they own, which of course they can and using as collateral against loans or advances. So take a look at the company that you’re booked with and see if they’re one of those really big corporations. A couple of months ago, I did a whole video around who owns what lines within the cruise industry so that may be particularly helpful if you’re not sure.

If you’re cruising on one of the smaller lines that are independently owned, you may want to take a more cautious approach, because of course they don’t necessarily have the same degree of resources.

Windstar Cruises Star Breeze in Katakolon Greece

Should we be booking a cruise?

The other thing I get asked a lot is should I book cruises now for this year with all these deals going? Personally, I’m not sure that’s a great idea. I don’t want to upset anyone in the travel industry, because of course they’ll be desperately trying to get back to normal, but what I would say is, it’s still too uncertain – we really don’t know what’s happening at this stage in time. I would actually hold back, particularly because travel insurance could be a real challenge. It’s quite hard to get travel insurance at this period in time, and there are a lot of restrictions about what it does and doesn’t cover. My advice would be to perhaps spend some time looking at the cruises you want to go on, then as things calm down and settle, book.

If you really do want to show support for the industry, look at next year. When I was on a cruise just as the shutdown was coming into place, the future cruise people were really busy with people booking for next year. The view was that things would calm down, we would probably get on top of the situation, and things will be back to normal. I feel much more comfortable as the deposits aren’t that large at this point of time, and there’s still a degree of flexibility. So if you do want to make some sort of commitment – and also give yourself something to look forward to, why not actually look at the deals for next year, and lock those in now while you can.

I guess the key thing that I’m saying to most people is obviously, you’ve got to make the decision based on your own financial situation, your age, where you are, and when you believe things will return to normal. I think we’re going to see the lockdown last much longer than is currently reflected.

So those are my thoughts about some of the questions I’ve been receiving.

I am posting videos covering thoughts and answers to questions I am getting about the cruise shutdown as it extends and things change, which you can watch on my Tips For Travellers YouTube Channel.


Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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1 Response

  1. P M says:

    Thanks Gary B for your, as one has come to expect, timely & thoughtful advice. Roll on 2021

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