The cruise ship industry wants travellers to know it will soon be back in business, with some scheduling cruises as soon as April, 2020.
To soothe any concerns guests might have regarding cruising in the time of COVID-19, many are offering guarantees that include either refunding money back should they decide to cancel their trip or adding extra perks if they rebook.
On March 13, Transport Canada issued a formal health advisory, recommending that Canadians avoid going on cruise ships at this time due to COVID-19 and the health risk it poses, particularly in such close quarters.
In 2019, Canada welcomed more than 140 cruise ships from more than 10 different countries. The cruise industry brings more than two million travellers to Canada annually.
But, in response to COVID-19, the Government of Canada deferred the start of the cruise ship season in Canada, from April 2 to July 1, 2020 — at the earliest. This deferral applies to cruise ships capable of carrying more than 500 passengers and crew members.
Also on March 13, Cruise Lines International Association, the industry's largest trade association, announced all its member cruise lines would voluntarily suspend cruise ship operations to and from U.S. ports of call for 30 days.
But prior to those cancellations, several major cruise lines continued with planned trips leading to the spread of COVID-19, lengthy quarantines for passengers, and ships stuck in limbo as countries refused to allow them to dock.
But now the cruise ship industry wants to rebuild and many of the major players are offering guaranteed refunds for cancellations, in some cases with as little as 24-hours notice.
Here’s a short list of just some cruise lines planning to return to the open waters as soon as next month — and what they’re offering.
American Cruise Line: river cruises
Voluntarily suspended operations until April 30, 2020
The new plan includes assurance from American that it will protect Travel Advisor (agents) commissions for bookings impacted by COVID-19. Earlier this month, American proactively rolled out flexible new options for guests and has now bundled them into one simple Travel Advisor Assurance Plan for agents.
This new option offers flexibility to guests for all new and existing bookings on cruises departing through Aug. 31, 2020. Guests opting for this offer have the ability to cancel for any reason up to 24-hours prior to the start of their cruise package and to receive cruise vouchers equal to 100 per cent of the amounts paid.
Guests booked on any cruises that have been suspended by American have the option to receive a full money-back refund or cruise vouchers equal to 125 per cent of all amounts paid for their package.
Globus: Globus, Cosmos, Monograms and Avalon Waterways
Voluntarily suspended operations until April 30, 2020
The plan provides travellers booked to depart from now through April 30, 2020 the freedom to reschedule their vacation in 2020, 2021 or 2022 to any destination, with any of the Globus family of brands, without incurring cancellation fees.
The plan also offers travellers an additional credit of $50 to $200 CDN per person (depending on which brand they originally booked with) when they reschedule their plans.
Norwegian Cruise Line
Voluntarily suspended operations until April 11
Guests who were booked on suspended cruises with embarkation dates from March 13 through April 11, 2020 will automatically receive a 125 per cent or 150 per cent refund (depending on the original cruise date) of their cruise fare in the form of a future cruise credit, which can be applied towards any Norwegian Cruise Line voyage through Dec. 31, 2022. Future cruise credits will be applied to their account by April 1, 2020.
For all cruises through Sept. 30, guests can cancel up to 48 hours prior to their vacation start date and receive a future cruise credit for sailings through December 2022.
For all cruises Oct. 1 and beyond, guests can cancel for a full refund up to 120 days before their cruise.
Other changes include: rigorous pre-embarkation screenings, no-touch temperature checks for all guests and crew, disinfection and sanitization protocols on all ships
Voluntarily suspended operations until May 12
Royal Caribbean will now let guests cancel any cruise that sets sail from now through July 31, 2020. Whether it’s a booking you already have or one you make right now, you’re covered.
As long as guests cancel at least 48 hours before they set sail, they’ll receive a future cruise credit, which can be used toward any cruise that sets sail through Dec. 31, 2021.
Voluntarily suspended operations until April 10
Carnival is also offering full refunds on certain cruises and extra credits up to $600 for guests who reschedule their cruise.
Staring this year, Carnival will be denying boarding to guests 70 years of age or older unless they have a letter from their physician confirming they are fit to sail. Additionally, all guests will be asked if they have been hospitalized in the past two months or if they have a history of chronic or severe medical conditions.
Chronic conditions are defined as an illness persisting for a long time or constantly recurring, such as diabetes, heart, kidney or lung disease. Additional severe medical conditions include: suppressed immunity (active cancer, taking steroids) or if the person requires oxygen for any reason. Guests with chronic or severe medical conditions will not be allowed to sail.
Voluntarily suspended operations until April 15
For cruises departing on or before July 31, 2020, guests can cancel their cruise no less than 48 hours before departure and a future cruise credit will be automatically applied to their mariner number in approximately two weeks — no further action is required.
For bookings made between March 1 and April 30, 2020 on cruises departing Aug. 1 to Oct. 15, 2020, guests must complete a form to receive a future cruise credit.