After weeks of problems stemming from the coronavirus pandemic which has seen ships detained for quarantine, refused entry to ports and been the focus of violent demonstrations, cruise lines are beginning to concede defeat.
Two cruise lines have now announced a suspension of all cruises for a period of up to two months. Yesterday Princess Cruises announced that it will voluntarily pause global operations of its 18 cruise ships for 60 days impacting voyages departing March 12 to May 10.
“Princess Cruises is a global vacation company that serves more than 50,000 guests daily from 70 countries as part of our diverse business, and it is widely known that we have been managing the implications of COVID-19 on two continents,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. “By taking this bold action of voluntarily pausing the operations of our ships, it is our intention to reassure our loyal guests, team members and global stakeholders of our commitment to the health, safety and well-being of all who sail with us, as well as those who do business with us, and the countries and communities we visit around the world,” added Swartz.
Those currently onboard a cruise that will end in the next five days will continue to sail as expected through the end of the itinerary so that onward travel arrangements are not disrupted. Current voyages that are underway and extend beyond March 17 will be ended at the most convenient location for guests, factoring in operational requirements. Princess will do everything possible to return each guest home with the greatest amount of care possible. During this time, our operations and medical teams across the fleet will remain vigilant in their care and service for guests and crew onboard.
For those who are impacted by this business decision, Princess is offering guests the opportunity to transfer 100% of the money paid for their cancelled cruise to a future cruise of their choice. To add a bonus incentive for guests to accept this offer, the company will add an additional generous future cruise credit benefit which can be applied to the cruise fare. In addition, Princess will honour this offer for those guests who had made final payment and cancelled their booking on or after 4 February 2020. The future cruise credit can be used on any voyage departing through May 1, 2022.
In a video posted on YouTube, Jan Swartz shares that “while this is a difficult business decision, we firmly believe it is the right one and is in alignment with our company’s core values. Rest assured the long-serving and dedicated professionals at our company will make best use of this time to prepare Princess Cruises’ fleet of cruise ships for a successful return to operation to serve our guests by delivering an exceptional vacation experience.”
The second cruise operator to suspend operation is Viking which has announced it will temporarily suspend river and ocean cruise operations until May 1 in response to the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Viking has a fleet of 79 vessels offering scenic cruising on rivers and oceans around the world. The announcement was made in a video and a letter sent from Viking chairman Torstein Hagen to passengers currently booked.
An increasing number of ports, including Venice, Monte Carlo and Bergen, have temporarily closed to cruise ships; major attractions such as the Vatican and other museums have been closed; and some countries are imposing restrictions on public gatherings and visitors.
In a separate development, the UK government has issued advice saying that persons over 70 years of age should avoid cruising.