Prior to the pandemic, the cruise industry had been enjoying a new ‘golden era’. Passenger numbers from the UK and Ireland topped two million in 2017, and accounted for the largest market in Europe after Germany, and this year 19 new ships, including Richard Branson’s $710 million (£563 million) Scarlet Lady, were due to launch.
Then Covid-19 hit. Amid the challenges of getting passengers and crew home, ships have been left to float empty when they should have been full of people enjoying holidays at sea.
Last month, Norwegian cruise line, Hurtigruten, halted its expedition cruises after at least 40 crew members and several guests aboard Roald Amundsen tested positive for Covid-19. In July, British operator Cruise and Maritime Voyages went into administration. Most recently, Cunard, Princess Cruises and P&O Cruises have cancelled planned world cruises.
And while many countries are beginning to open up to tourism – and Europe is seeing a slow resumption of cruising – many lines continue to delay their returns. Updated guidance from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in July dealt a major blow to Britons hoping to sail, advising against all cruise ship travel.
On July 16, the FCO revised its advice once again and gave the green light to river cruises, which are considered lower risk than their ocean counterparts, due to shorter itineraries and fewer passengers on board, meaning new health and safety protocols are easier to manage.
Here’s a summary of when each cruise line expects to resume cruises again, as well as the refunds and other compensation being offered to guests booked on cancelled cruises.
Andy Harmer, UK and Ireland director of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), said: “As we face the prospect of new restrictions impacting our daily lives, we are all being tested, and I’m proud that our cruising community has been stepping up to the challenge. I know that everyone is working around the clock to adapt to the new landscape we find ourselves in, and are making every effort to keep customers informed with updated information, even as developments are seeming to occur so rapidly. Our customers should feel assured that our industry remains focused on their safety, health and well-being.”
Viking was the first cruise operator to announce it was suspending its river and ocean cruises for a temporary period on March 11, closely followed by Princess Cruises. Practically all other major cruise lines then made similar announcements. On June 1, river cruising returned to Europe as NickoVision set sail in Germany; ocean cruises returned on June 16 as Hurtigruten’s Finnmarken set sail along the Norwegian coast.
Amadeus River Cruises – began sailing July 2020
A statement on Amadeus’ website says: “The first cruises of the Amadeus fleet took place successfully in July and we can assure you that our relaxing and wonderful atmosphere on board is guaranteed as per usual, even during these unique times.
Passengers booked on cancelled sailings can change without penalty to a 2020/21 sailing. “The well-being and safety of all guests, crew members and employees have top priority for us. That is why we have developed a comprehensive health and safety concept for all Amadeus ships that further extends our safety standards, which have always been very high.”
Passengers and travel agencies affected by a possible postponement will be contacted individually by Amadeus to discuss how to proceed. Passengers who were booked on cancelled sailings can change without penalty to a 2020/21 sailing.
AmaWaterways – proposed restart 2021
All river cruises sailing in Europe, Asia and Africa have been suspended until next year with the exception of voyages on AmaKristina in Germant. Guests who were booked on a river cruise that is being cancelled have the option of receiving a future cruise credit equal to 115 per cent of the value of all services purchased through AmaWaterways or receiving a full monetary refund. The future cruise credit is applicable on all European or Mekong River cruise sailings any time before December 31, 2022. There is further information at amawaterways.co.uk.
American Cruise Lines – proposed restart December
The small-ship cruise line has been forced to shelve plans to resume sailing due to a “a spike in [Covid-19] cases around the country [which] hasn has renewed concerns and poses potential complications.”
A spokesperson for American Cruise Lines told The Telegraph that the company has “no exact date at moment but do hope to resume some cruises toward the end of 2020, but also look forward to a full 2021 season February through December next year.”
If customers want to cancel their cruise, they can receive a 100 per cent future cruise credit. If they choose to move their sailing to another date, they will receive 125 per cent.
American Queen Steamboat Company – proposed restart January 2021
American Queen Steamboat Company has suspended sailings onboard American Duchess, American Empress, American Queen, and its newest ship, American Countess until December 31.
The line’s newest ship, American Countess which will sail the Mississippi, Ohio and Tennessee rivers, has also extended its suspension until October 1. Those affected are being offered a future cruise credit for 125 per cent of the cruise fare or they can seek a full refund.
APT – proposed restart date January 2021
The APT Travel Group (ATG) has suspended all international touring and cruising up to and including December 31, except for Myanmar river cruises. For those affected, APT and sister brand Travelmarvel are offering a future holiday credit equal to the full value of the booking, which will be valid up until the end of 2021. Anyone booked to travel in 2020, APT has introduced a new ‘Covid Flexible Booking Cover’ which gives customers the option to change their booking up to 100 days before departure free of charge. See more information here.
Chris Hall, managing director, said: “As a business, we have a 90-year-history and a strong position in the travel and tourism industry, and we will do all we can accommodate our guests and provide them with the flexibility required for them to be confident to travel with us again, in the future.”
Arena River Cruises – proposed restart date January 2021
Arena has postponed all river cruises for the rest of this year. If your holiday is affected the company will have been in touch, or will be very soon, to discuss alternative dates of travel.
“We very much hope that these will be able to go ahead if permitted and if deemed to be safe – at this stage we are closely following the government guidance and listening to the concerns and needs of our customers,” said Steve Goodenough, managing director at Arena Travel.
A-Rosa – began sailing June 17
A-Rosa resumed cruises on the Douro on June 17, along the Rhine on June 19 and on the Danube on June 20. River cruises in France on the Rhone restarted on July 11 but it’s unclear when they will begin again on the Seine. However, due to official regulations or changing local conditions, adjustments may still be necessary and the cruise line will inform passengers accordingly.
Aurora Expeditions – suspended until 2021
Aurora Expeditions will commence exploration voyages in spring 2021 with a Patagonia and Chilean Fjords voyage (March 31, 2021) and a Costa Rica and the Panama Canal voyage (April 23, 2021). In May 2021 the Greg Mortimer will then sail to the Arctic to commence the summer season with a voyage to West Greenland.
However there is a chance there could be some sailing this year as the company has said it continues to review the upcoming Antarctic season commencing November 2020, closely following travel restrictions around the globe.
Avalon Waterways – proposed restart January 2021
Avalon Waterways, along with sister companies Globus and Cosmos, has suspendeo perations until at least December 31 (though a limited number of festive cruises will still run). Travellers affected by the suspension can reschedule their holiday in 2020, 2021 or 2022, to any destination, on any brand, without cancellation fees. Avalon river cruise customers will also be offered a credit of up to £150pp when they reschedule their plans. Further information is available at avalonwaterways.co.uk.