This past spring, multiple coronavirus outbreaks on cruise ships led the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Department to issue new guidance for Americans who planned to travel via ship.
On April 9, the CDC updated its ship travel guidance to “Level 3 – No Sail Order,” which advises all Americans to avoid nonessential travel by boat or cruise ship. Further, the State Department urged at-risk U.S. citizens to refrain from cruise ship travel for the time being.
More recently, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) issued a June 19 statement announcing an extension of the previous cruise line operations suspension out of U.S. ports until September 15, 2020, despite the CDC’s No Sail Order end date of July 24, 2020.
“The additional time will also allow us to consult with the CDC on measures that will be appropriate for the eventual resumption of cruise operations,” said the CLIA in a statement.
What cruise lines are saying in response to COVID-19
Though the CLIA is now taking caution in regard to future cruise travel, the group’s initial response to CDC and State Department guidelines was one of disapproval.
“Singling out the travel and tourism industry, and cruise lines specifically, will have significant detrimental impacts — some possibly irreversible — on the national and local economies,” the CLIA wrote in a Facebook post.
But with multiple instances of virus outbreaks on cruise ships around the world — most notably March’s Grand Princess outbreak off the coast of California — many are understandably nervous to travel.
Following new travel guidelines and the classification of the virus as a pandemic earlier this year, many Americans with scheduled cruise travel booked (or those who were planning to book a cruise in the near future) may be wondering what actions to take going forward.
Trip protection offerings by cruise line
Responses regarding trip refunds and waivers vary by cruise line, but nearly all have addressed passenger concerns about the threat of the coronavirus.
Here’s what a few major cruise lines have said about current and future cruise offerings:
Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Cruise Line is suspending all cruises set to sail through August 31, 2020. Alaska, Canada and New England departures are also suspended through various October dates, which can be found here. Passengers are eligible to receive a Future Cruise Credit worth 125 percent of their trip’s value, and cruise credits can be redeemed any time before Dec. 31, 2022.
Carnival Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Line ships set to sail through September 30, 2020, are canceled. Additionally:
- San Francisco cruises are suspended through 2020
- Carnival Spirit Alaska, Hawaii and Trans-Pacific cruises are suspended through October 6, 2020
- Carnival Sunrise cruises are suspended through October 19, 2020
- Carnival Legend cruises are suspended through October 30, 2020
- Carnival Radiance cruises are suspended through November 1, 2020
Passengers are eligible for either a Future Cruise Credit (worth 100 percent of the original trip) or a full refund. The Future Cruise Credit can be used to book travel up until May 31, 2021, for cruises through April 30, 2023.
Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Cruises is suspending “most sailings” through September 15, 2020. Passengers impacted by the cancellations are eligible for a cruise credit worth 125 percent of the original trip value or 100 percent refund. Celebrity Cruises has also temporarily updated their cancellation policy to allow passengers to cancel a cruise up to 48 hours before their departure date for a full refund or cruise credit.
Disney Cruise Line: Disney Cruise Line is suspending Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy cruises through September 15, 2020. Additionally, Disney Wonder cruises are suspended through September 14, 2020, and Disney Magic cruises through October 2, 2020. Passengers impacted by the cancellations are eligible for a full refund or cruise credit worth 100 percent of the original trip value. Disney has also said that passengers impacted by trip cancellations should wait for the cruise line to email directions before requesting a refund or cruise credit.
Holland America: Holland America is suspending cruises departing from Vancouver through 2020 (which includes Alaska, Europe, Canada and New England trips) and a handful of departures out of Hawaii until 2021. Passengers impacted by the cancellation can receive a future cruise credit worth 125 percent of the trip value, plus $250 onboard credit per passenger. Holland America is also offering a 100 percent refund for passengers who do not wish to receive a Future Cruise Credit.
Princess Cruises: Princess Cruises is suspending all sailings in Europe, Canada, Alaska and New England through 2020 (information on cruises departing from other countries and U.S. states can be found here.) Travelers who’ve already paid in full can expect a Future Cruise Credit worth 100% of the original trip’s value and a Bonus Future Cruise Credit worth 25 percent of said value.
Royal Caribbean: Royal Caribbean is suspending all cruises through September 15, 2020, with operations resuming the following day. Passengers impacted by the cancellations are eligible to receive a Future Cruise Credit worth 125 percent of the original trip value. Credits must be booked by December 31, 2021, for travel through April 30, 2022.
Viking Cruise Line: Viking Cruise Line is suspending all planned cruises through August 31, 2020. Passengers impacted by the suspension will be given a Future Cruise Voucher worth 125 percent of the original trip value or a 100 percent refund.
MSC Cruises: MSC is suspending all cruises set to sail from August 1, 2020, through September 15, 2020. Additional cruise suspensation dates can be found here. Passengers may be eligible for a Future Cruise Credit worth 125 percent of the original trip’s value (so long as the proper paperwork is filled out), and credits can be used for cruises on or before December 31, 2021.
Credit card travel insurance
If you’ve yet to book a cruise, you may be considering your travel insurance options should travel restrictions continue into next year. While no one can be certain how long the effects of the coronavirus will last — or when a vaccine will be ready — travel insurance through your credit card could give you peace of mind when paying for your next cruise vacation.
Travel insurance offered through your credit card can also alleviate any stress that might come with rebooking your cruise with “cruise credits” that are subject to expiration dates and fine print.
Here are Bankrate’s top picks for excellent travel cards that also have trip insurance:
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers trip cancellation insurance worth up to $20,000 in coverage per trip. Additionally, the Sapphire Reserve offers travel accident insurance worth up to $1,000,000. Perhaps most useful of all, the card offers emergency evacuation coverage worth up to $100,000.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
While the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card may not offer the same high-value trip insurance like the Sapphire Reserve, it comes with travel accident insurance worth up to $150,000 and doesn’t charge an annual fee. If you’re purchasing a cruise vacation with this credit card, you’ll want to make sure that the cruise line in question has trip coverage as a backup; this card only offers accident insurance, not cancellation insurance.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
If you’re traveling on a budget but still want quality trip insurance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred might be the sweet spot between the Sapphire Reserve and Propel. With an annual fee of $95 (a modest cost compared to the $550 annual fee of the Sapphire Reserve), the Preferred Card offers up to $20,000 of trip cancellation protection and a trip delay reimbursement option worth up to $500 per ticket.
Whether you’ve already booked a trip or are still planning your future sea voyage, staying informed on guidelines from both the U.S. government and health officials is the best way to keep yourself safe and healthy.
For further information on travel restrictions, visit the World Health Organization’s travel advice page. Accurate information about the coronavirus, its transmission and real-time travel updates can also be found on the CDC’s website.
This article was originally published on March 10 and is a developing story. Updates will be added as new information is released by health officials and cruise lines.