Several cruise lines have dropped their plans to restart operations this summer in a major blow to those hoping for smoother sailing in the beleaguered industry.
The head of Princess Cruises and Holland America Line have both expressed disappointment with the decision but one described it as the “best” move in the circumstances.
The announcements mark a considerable shift away from a July return to sailing that had been put in place.
There appeared to be green shoots of recovery earlier this week when cruise giant Carnival became to the first major cruise operator to reveal its plans for returning, targeting August 1 to resume services and sailing eight ships from three US ports.
Telegraph Travel’s Katheryn Lawrey described the move as “a toe dipped in the water” but significant: “Where a giant like Carnival leads, others are sure to follow.”
Now the early signs of optimism for cruise lovers are likely to have been dampened after pauses were extended.
The cruise industry generates more than $150 billion (£121 billion) per year in global economic activity and supports over 1.17 million jobs worldwide, according to the Cruise Lines International Association.
But port closures across the globe and a lack of flights are among the problems that haven’t yet be rectified say Princess, which is looking to at least November before it begins services again.
Among their cancellations are the remaining Alaska trips, Australia-based cruises on Sapphire Princess and Sea Princess, summer to autumn cruises departing from Japan on Diamond Princess, and remaining Europe and Transatlantic cruises on Enchanted Princess, Regal Princess, Sky Princess, Crown Princess and Island Princess.
A full, up-to-date list is available in Telegraph Travel’s comprehensive overview, which includes information on how to change bookings and what refunds are available.
“As the world is still preparing to resume travel, it is with much disappointment that we announce an extension of our pause of global ship operations and the cancellation of cruise holidays for our loyal guests,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises.
“Among other disruptions, airlines have limited their flight availability and many popular cruise ports are closed. It saddens us to think about the impact on the livelihood of our teammates, business partners and the communities we visit.”
Princess Cruises was the first line to make headlines over the virus back in February when one of their ships, Diamond Princess, was held in quarantine for nearly three weeks in Yokohama, the cruise port of Tokyo in Japan.
The situation is similar for Holland America Line, with the extension in paused operations resulting in the cancellation of all Alaska, Europe and Canada/New England sailings for 2020. The 79-day Grand Africa Voyage, which was due to set sail in October from Florida and near-circumnavigates Africa, has also been axed.
Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line, said: “As we continue to navigate through these unprecedented and challenging times, the best decision right now is to extend our pause in cruise operations into the fall.
“While this is very disappointing and we never want to let our guests down, as soon as it makes sense we will be back cruising again, giving our guests the memorable travel experiences they continue to dream about.”
The decision of cruise lines to continue pausing their businesses is a “proactive response to the unpredictable circumstances” stemming from the spread of Covid-19, ultra-luxury cruise line Seabourn believes.
In March the company announced it was pausing until June 30 but this has now been lengthened until autumn.
“We know travellers, as well as our past guests, are thinking about and looking forward to travelling based on a lot of information we are seeing lately. With many cruise ports still closed, destinations opening in phases and airline capacity limited, a continuation of our pause gives us additional time to prepare for our eventual return to service,” said Rick Meadows, president of Seabourn.
Although each vessel in its five-strong fleet will resume activity at different times, the earliest restart date under the new plans would see Seabourn Sojourn return to service on October 13.
Seabourn Odyssey’s is earmarked as the last to come back, with the date set at November 20.
In more buoyant developments, Cruise & Maritime Voyages have only gently pushed their return date of May 25 back to June 30, citing government advice and lockdown restrictions in many of the countries they would visit.
CMV’s CEO, Christian Verhounig, said it was a “great sign” that nearly 80 percent of passengers affected by cancellations have rebooked instead of taking refunds.