It’s been a difficult year for people interested in taking a cruise. First, cruise lines were forced to cancel cruises due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although cruise lines have been taking reservations for cruises in 2021, the prospect of taking a cruise -- at least on a ship sailing in U.S. waters -- has now, unfortunately, been pushed further back into next year.
In the meantime, although most of the major cruise companies have canceled voyages in U.S. waters until 2021, some are still taking place in other waters. For example, cruise operations in the Mediterranean restarted over the summer -- although with reduced passenger capacity and a more limited itinerary.
To address that situation, and in response to growing cases of COVID-19, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a Level 4 Very High Level of COVID-19 travel notice, which recommends that all people avoid travel on cruise ships worldwide, “because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high.” It is especially important that people with an increased risk of severe illness avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, the advisory explains.
“Cruise passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, and outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships,” the notice explains. “Passengers who decide to go on a cruise should get tested three to five days after your trip AND stay home for seven days after travel. Even if you test negative, stay home for the full seven days.”
Taking a cruise early next year now seems doubtful as well.
Earlier this month, the CDC issued what it called a Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which establishes a framework so cruise lines can safely resume passenger operations with an emphasis on preventing the further spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships and from cruise ships into communities.
Cruise lines are responding appropriately. For instance, Princess Cruises announced it has extended its pause on global operations through March 31, 2021 “to allow time for the estimated preparation needed for completing required activities prior to sailing and taking into consideration the temporary seven-day cap on itineraries that call at a U.S. port.”
The cruise line also canceled all cruises longer than seven days sailing in and out of U.S. ports through November 1, 2021, as well as all cruises in and out of Japan through June 25.
Holland America Line has also suspended all cruise departures from January 1 to March 31, 2021, as well as cruises of eight days or more that call at a U.S. port through November 1, 2021. Select longer voyages in Asia, Australia/New Zealand, and South America have also been suspended through mid-April, 2021.
Finally, Windstar Cruises has announced that while it had canceled all remaining cruises in 2020, it is now also canceling cruises for January and February 2021 for all yachts -- and into March and April 2021 depending on the itinerary. The first yacht to set sail will be the Wind Spirit on March 25, 2021 in Tahiti.
At first glance, this all seems like bad news for those who love a cruise. Although it is a bit disheartening, it is what’s needed to address the pandemic, which is good.