Yesterday, Viking Cruises Chairman Torstein Hagen announced via an open letter and video message that the luxury line would be suspending all sailings through the end of 2020. On March 11—nearly five months prior to the day—Viking had become the first cruise line to announce cancellations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I would not have imagined that in August we would still not be sailing and that I would be writing this letter to you,” Hagen said in his statement. “Since Viking’s very first day, our commitment to the safety and welfare of all those on board our vessels and to our mission—to deliver experiences that focus on the destination, allowing you to explore the world in comfort—has never wavered. I have said before that we will only sail again when it is safe to do so.”
Hagen stated that he is “encouraged by the scientific advancements toward COVID-19” and believes the new year will find the world “in a better position, and international travel will be less complicated.”
The news comes on the heels of announcements from several other cruise lines that have decided to cancel or postpone the remainder or majority of their scheduled 2020 voyages. On Tuesday, Holland America announced that all cruise operations and departures would continue to be suspended until December 15, 2020, affecting voyages in the Caribbean, Mexico, the Panama Canal, Pacific Coastal, South America, Antarctica, Hawaii, the South Pacific, Asia, and Australia.
Princess Cruises made a similar statement on July 22 when it extended its pause on global sailings until December 15, which includes cruises sailing to/from Asia, the Caribbean, the California Coast, Hawaii, Mexico, the Panama Canal, South America, Antarctica, Japan, and Tahiti/the South Pacific. Exempt from this December postponement are Australian voyages on the Majestic Princess, Regal Princess, Sapphire Princess, Sea Princess, and Sun Princess, which are only paused until October 31 as of now.
Currently, the Princess Cruises schedule still includes a few late-December sailings to the Caribbean, plus single sailings to Hawaii and the Mexican Riviera. Voyages in popular places such as Alaska, Europe, and Eastern Canada aren’t slated in the calendar again until at least April 2021.
Unlike many cruise lines, Carnival is swapping out blanket pandemic postponements in favor of a more detailed approach. The line’s sailing suspensions affect port destinations as a whole, specific sailings, and/or specific ships. You can view the whole breakdown that was released on July 5 here.
Safety and health concerns regarding COVID-19 are not the only challenge factoring into the cruise lines’ decisions to postpone or cancel sailings. Several major lines began canceling sailings back in March when much of the world was under a blanket lockdown. Months later, travel restrictions now vary around the world and are fairly fluid—in other words, it's hard to predict with certainty which borders will remain open or closed and to whom.
“As you well know, recent events have shown us that the recovery from this pandemic will be sporadic,” Hagen said in his open letter statement. “And the ability to travel freely across borders remains some time away. Fortunately, the U.S. State Department has lifted some travel advisories for Americans, but many countries are still limiting tourists. As keen as we may be to get back to exploring, for now, international travel must wait."
Still, some ships around the world are sailing. Smaller cruise lines are trying to work around this predicament by limiting where they sail and what passengers can come aboard. Today, Costa Cruises announced that it would indeed begin sailing two of its cruises in early September, the Costa Deliziosa out of Trieste and the Costa Diadema out of Genoa—but the sailings are reserved exclusively for Italian guests and the one-week itineraries will only visit Italian ports.
During a virtual press webinar on August 4, president and co-founder of river cruise operator AmaWaterways, Rudi Schreiner, said there are about 58 river cruise ships operating in Europe, mostly on the Rhine and Danube, a few on the Seine and Rhone, and a handful on the Douro—at the time, 50 more ships were expected to start the following week.