Royal Caribbean has announced that it will cancel all sailings through the end of 2020, with tentative plans to resume starting January 2021.
In an email sent to booked passengers, the cruise line made the following statement:
We hope that this email finds you healthy and safe and that with each passing day, we’re closer to getting back to a more regular day-to-day. While this is like nothing any of us have ever experienced, we continue to evaluate how it impacts our upcoming sailings.
As you know, this pandemic has been, and still is, quite fluid. The CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order is a positive step for the cruising industry, and we are anxious to welcome guests back onboard. However, to ensure we have ample time to focus on our healthy return to service initiatives, our global suspension has been extended through December 31st, 2020, excluding sailings onboard Quantum of the Seas, with a plan to resume operation on January 1st, 2021. As a result, your sailing will unfortunately be cancelled.
The statement went on to explain options for re-booking, along with future cruise credits or refunds.
This extension marks the second major cruise line to announce it will cancel cruises until at least next year. Earlier today Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. — parent of Norwegian Cruise Lines, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas — said it would cancel its December sailings.
Still Months Before Cruises Resume Due to CDC Framework
Previously both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian had hoped to return in December. However, the CDC, while letting its “No Sail Order” expire, implemented a new framework for cruises to return to sailing.
This framework lays out numerous steps that lines must undertake before they can return. It includes steps to ensure the safety of the crew, simulated voyages with new protocols, applying for a certification to resume sailing, and then new rules on ships once cruises resume. (See a full explanation of the CDC framework here.)
The new process gives a path to return, but it’s not easy or quick. The CDC is requiring a step-by-step completion of the process, including multiple time requirements before each step.
For example, before a cruise line can undertake the required simulated voyage to practice new health policies, it must provide notice to the CDC at least 30 days prior. And to apply for a certification to cruise, an application must be submitted 60 days before the date of the anticipated return.
In other words, it’s likely to take several months before cruise lines can complete all the steps laid out for them. As we mentioned earlier, it’s little surprise that Norwegian cancelled cruises, and we fully expected other lines to follow suit.
Royal Caribbean’s announcement that it too has cancelled 2020 sailings shows that we are still months away from a return to sailing.