Major cruise operators are ready to set sail once more after a turbulent 16 months that has seen the cruise industry come to a standstill
As vaccination rates continue to climb in many countries, cruise giants Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Line have both embarked on their first cruises from the USA in more than 16 months, sailing out of Port of Miami in Florida on 3 and 4 July, respectively.
Royal Carribean’s Freedom of the Seas became the first of the operator’s ships in the US to welcome guests, sailing with 93% of individuals onboard having been fully vaccinated.
“We have a lot to celebrate” said the Group’s president and CEO Michael Bayley, “For a moment as meaningful as Fourth of July weekend, it couldn’t be more appropriate that Freedom of the Seas be the first ship to ring in our return to cruising in the US ... Summer family vacations are back, and we are just getting started.”
Across the Atlantic, Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas set sail from the UK on Thursday, 7 July.
Overall, Royal Carribean is planning for nine more ships to return through August including the new vessel Odyssey of the Seas in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Jewel of the Seas set out from Limassol, Cyprus on 6 July, ahead of its first inaugural voyage on Saturday, 10 July.
In a hopeful sign for shuttered Alaskan cruise routes, Royal Carribean’s Serenade of the Seas cast off from the Port of Seattle for a short trip up to Ketchikan and back as part of a test sailing to satisfy requirements from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The cruise industry adds US$3Bn to Alaska’s economy annually but a re-start on the routes that include stops in Canada remains unconfirmed, and Canada’s decision to pause cruising into 2022 could prolong Alaska’s woes.
UK-based, Norwegian-owned Fred Olsen also resumed operations this week with the line’s newly acquired and renamed Borealis completing its maiden voyage from Liverpool, sailing through the northern British Isles on a three-day itinerary.
Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista is set to sail on Saturday, 10 July from Galveston, Texas, marking the line’s first US cruise since the pandemic halted its operations. It will be followed by Carnival Horizon departing from Miami.
Holland America Line will resume operations from California’s Port of San Diego beginning with a season of cruises to Mexico, Hawaii and along the California coast aboard Koningsdam and Zuiderdam.
The cruise line has expanded the season with the addition of six new cruise departures for Zuiderdam and two new cruises on Koningsdam, scheduling a total of 40 cruises from San Diego between September 2021 and April 2022.
Holland America Line also is looking to restart cruising in the Caribbean with four ships all sailing roundtrip from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The season is set to begin on 23 October, 2021, with Nieuw Amsterdam to be joined by the line’s newest flagship vessel Rotterdam in November.
Holland America‘s president Gus Antorcha said “We’ve also been anticipating announcing our plans for the Caribbean and we’re thrilled to have four ships in the region, including our new Rotterdam. Cruising is back and having vaccinated ships for these cruises in 2021 ensures that we can deliver the experience just how our guests remember and expect. We’re ready to cruise!”
The market’s luxury sector marked its return in mid-June when Silversea Cruises’ flagship Silver Moon, departed from Pireaus, Greece. Competitor Seabourn Cruise Line followed, when Seabourn Ovation resumed its seven-day cruises visiting the Greek Isles and Cyprus from July through October.
However, cruising is not yet in the clear. Carnival Group subsidiary Princess Cruises will return to Alaska with the Majestic Princess set to arrive in late July, but the line cancelled all cruises in and out of Australia through December 19, 2021 blaming “continued uncertainty regarding the timing for the resumption of cruise holidays in the region”.
Voyages aboard its Cunard brand were also temporarily suspended after crew members aboard the Queen Elizabeth tested positive for Covid-19, according to Cunard. Queen Elizabeth is currently moored off the coast of Dorset in the UK and was set to resume operations on 19 July. That date has now been pushed to 13 August.
But Carnival, the world’s largest cruise operator, foresees better times ahead. CEO Arnold Donald said bookings were among the highest in the company’s history and estimates the full fleet of 91 ships will be in operation by spring 2022.