Cruise Industry

Princess, Viking and Virgin Voyages suspend operations amid Coronavirus disruption

With a multitude of cruise ports around the world now placing extreme restrictions on cruise ships allowed to dock, or barring ships from visiting altogether, at least three cruise lines have announced they are suspending operations.

Viking Ocean Cruises, the luxury cruise line that made headlines last year when one of its ships encountered difficulty off Norway, was the first to announce it was ‘grounding’ its 7-ship fleet.

Viking Sun at the N-Shed passenger terminal in Durban

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“We have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend operations of our river and ocean vessels embarking from March 12 to April 30, 2020 – at which time we believe Viking will be in a better place to provide the experiences our guests expect and deserve,” the cruise line said in a statement.

“This is a decision we made with a heavy heart, but with present circumstances what they are, we are unable to deliver the high-quality Viking experience for which we are known,” it added.

Viking said guests who already booked cruises during the period of suspension would be offered a voucher for a future cruise worth 125% the original cruise price, or a total refund for the amount paid.

Princess Cruises followed suit, informing its passengers that all 20 of its cruise ships would be withdrawn from service in the coming days. All cruises scheduled from March 12th to May 10th will be suspended.

Princess Cruises’ newest cruise ship Sky Princess

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Cruises scheduled to end within the next five days will continue as planned, but voyages that have already departed that are scheduled to end past March 17 will be cut short and guests will be disembarked at the “next available port”.

Princess said it will provide guests with a 100% refund, plus a “generous future cruise credit” to book another cruise once the suspension ends, or submit a request for a cash refund.

Princess Cruises CEO Jan Swartz made the announcement on Twitter in a video message in which she reaffirmed the cruise line’s commitment to its passengers’ safety.

The cruise line, part of Carnival Corporation, the largest cruise company in the world, has been especially hard-hit by the current Coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, a 71-year-old who had been on board a February Princess cruise died of coronavirus. On Tuesday, 19 crew members and two other passengers on the same ship, Grand Princess, tested positive, leading to the ship having to be evacuated and guests placed in quarantine in the US.

Last month, a separate Princess ship, Diamond Princess, became home to one of the largest clusters of coronavirus cases outside of China and had to be quarantined for two weeks after 700 passengers contracted Coronavirus.

Also today, Virgin Voyages, the world’s newest cruise line, which launched its first ship Scarlet Lady just a few weeks ago, announced that it was suspending her maiden cruise season in the Caribbean.

Scarlet Lady was delivered just a few weeks ago

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“The current global health crisis is understandably making many people rethink upcoming travel plans,” the line said in a statement. “While timing isn’t right to launch our first ship right now, we look forward to welcoming everyone on Scarlet Lady later this year.”

Virgin said pre-inaugural events to showcase the ship that had been scheduled for this month now will take place in July and passengers booked on canceled sailings can choose between a full refund or a future cruise credit.

If they choose the credit, they will get 200% of the amount they paid to apply to a future sailing. Those who choose a refund will get a 25% credit toward a future cruise in addition to all their money back.

Passengers also can get up to $500 in onboard credit if they rebook a sailing before June 30th.

“We know many of you are very excited to sail on Scarlet Lady, and we can tell you after spending time on board, she has captured all of our hearts,” Richard Branson said in a joint statement with Virgin Voyages CEO Tom McAlpin. “But at this time, much of our attention is focused, rightly, on the current global health crisis.”

It’s unlikely that these three cruise lines will be the last to suspend operations as the industry faces its greatest crisis in modern history.

All three of the biggest cruise corporations (Carnival, Royal and Norwegian) have seen their share prices plummet by 30 to 40% over the last few weeks, and countries around the world are becoming increasingly wary of allowing cruise ships to dock over fears they may be carrying Coronavirus.

The US State Department this week for the first time in history issued a travel advisory for cruise ships, advising the public not to take cruise holidays at the present time.

“US citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship,” the travel advisory warns. “CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment.”

The State Department added that in order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking.

In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures.

“While the US government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for US citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities,” it said.

Australia, meanwhile, has issued a similar advisory, but warned Australian cruise passengers that if they become stranded due to quarantine measures over the virus, it will not help them.

2 replies »

  1. Hi there. Can you tell me if Dubai port is closed to all cruise ships. In particular Jewel of the Seas. Supposed to be sailing on this ship 23 March out if Dubai. Thanks

    • Hi Penny, yes unfortunately all cruises from Dubai (for Royal and all other cruise lines) are cancelled for the current season. The March 23rd cruise won’t go ahead anymore 🙁

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