Royal Caribbean, Norwegian cancel cruises through the end of the year

Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. announced Monday that they are canceling most cruises through the end of the year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. 

The announcements come on the heels of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order,” which replaced the eight-month “no sail” order that expired over the weekend. The new order, published Friday, allows cruise ships to sail in U.S. waters as of this week, but the first cruises to leave port won’t have paying passengers; instead, they’ll be simulation sailings designed to show that ships and crews are in compliance with CDC standards and able to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 onboard.

Royal Caribbean Group, which owns several cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea and Azamara, said the extended suspension through the end of the year does not apply to sailings from Singapore. And some of its lines have canceled cruises into 2021: Celebrity Cruises suspended its full 2020/2021 winter program in Australia and Asia, and Azamara canceled its 2020/2021 winter sailings in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America, according to a news release on the company’s website. The cruise lines will reach out to affected passengers. 

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., which owns Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, has extended its cruising suspension through Dec. 31. Passengers with affected voyages should contact the cruise line or their travel adviser, the company said in a news release. 

Both companies had previously announced cruise suspensions through Nov. 30. 

Though some cruises have restarted with new COVID-19 protocols in Asia and Europe, ocean cruises have yet to restart in U.S. waters and have been suspended since mid-March. 

The cruise industry announced mandatory health and safety changes in September in preparation for a return to cruising.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the main cruise trade organization, and its members, which carry 95% of the world’s oceangoing cruisers, adopted mandatory health protocols for vessels that can carry 250 or more passengers that include crew and passenger testing, mask wearing, enhanced cruise ship ventilation, stringent response procedures and shore excursion protocols.

CLIA worked with Royal Caribbean and Norwegian’s “Healthy Sail Panel,” other cruise lines and health experts and examined sailings with new protocols in place in Europe.

Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, believes that the industry has found a way to move forward.

“We do believe it is possible to make it that you are safer on a cruise ship than you are on ‘Main Street’,” he said on the company’s earnings call Thursday.

Contributing: Morgan Hines

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