Cruise lines may not return to US ‘until late 2021’

Kaye Holland
·2 min read
Cruise ships can be found floating empty of passengers off the US coast - ALLEN J SCHABEN
Cruise ships can be found floating empty of passengers off the US coast - ALLEN J SCHABEN

The comeback for cruise holidays in US waters may be delayed until later this year despite their resumption in Europe.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lifted its seven month ‘no sail order’ on cruising in US waters on October 31, replacing it with a ‘Framework for Conditional Sailing Order’ that appeared to pave the way for the resumption of sailing.

However three months down the line, the public health agency appears to be dragging its feet when it comes to giving the cruise industry the guidance needed to resume cruising from US ports.

While North America is at a standstill, MSC Cruises have restarted sailing in the Mediterranean. The operator’s flagship, MSC Grandiosa, re-entered the water at the end of January on a seven-night cruise departing from Genoa.

According to some industry insiders, it is doubtful that the 63 cruise ships currently off US shores are likely to resume in America before July in the very best-case scenario.

This has seen major lines including, P&O Cruises, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises, scrap all sailings through April. Carnival has also announced plans to suspend voyages on Carnival Magic, Carnival Paradise and Carnival Valor until November.

Christine Duffy, the president of Carnival Cruise Line, said: “Like so much about this current global situation, we are adapting our plans as circumstances evolve.”

Patrick Scholes, an analyst at Truist Financial, isn’t optimistic about the return of passengers from US ports any time soon: “The sentiment for 2021 has now changed to ‘It’s possible 2021 will not be a return to “revenue” sailings in North America, or at least not before the fourth quarter.”

Doubts are also growing about the upcoming Alaska cruise season, which typically runs from late April to early October. Windstar Cruises and Cunard have already cancelled their 2021 Alaska season entirely, while Holland America Line and Princess Cruises have made the decision to postpone their season until at least mid-May.

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic halted the whole of the 2020 Alaska season and a second straight year without cruises could spell disaster for the Alaskan communities who rely heavily on cruise tourism.

Alaska cruises arguably face the most obstacles in returning to the water as they require approval from two countries, the US and Canada. The latter has currently banned all cruises in Canadian waters through February 28 with an extension expected, and closed its borders with the US until at least February 21, 2021.