If advanced bookings for ocean cruising is anything to go by, it’s clear that travellers can’t wait to get back to the high seas.
Earlier this month Oceania Cruises set a new benchmark, achieving an all-time record number of bookings in a single day when it released its 2022/2023 Tropics & Exotics Collection. Just weeks before that, the cruise line’s 180-day around the world voyage scheduled for 2023 sold out in just one day.
Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, which brought travel to a halt in March 2020, the demand for cruising is evidently still there.
The only question is, when will cruising be possible again? And what will it be like when it is?
Here’s what we know:
While there’s still no pandemic end date in sight, cruise operators are edging towards bringing travel back as safely and soon as possible. Many have set their sights on resuming operations by mid-2021.
When will cruising start again in Australia?
In Australia, the international travel ban remains in place until June 17, 2021. It was initially due to expire on March 17, 2021.
The extension means international cruising from Australia is not permitted and internationally registered cruise ships cannot enter Australian waters. With this, cruise lines including P&O and Carnival are extending their pause on operations until at least June this year.
Until then, domestic cruises are the new go-to. Cruise lines including Coral Expeditions, Silversea, APT and True North are operating Australia-only itineraries prior to June. While Island Escape Cruises, Ponant and Aurora Expeditions are releasing domestic cruises later this year and early next year.
The reason for the delay in domestic offers is because many ships are stationed in Asia or Europe. Vessels can take up to 12 weeks to prepare for sailing and on top of this, crew members would need to undergo quarantine before being ready for domestic cruises in Australia.
When will cruising start again worldwide?
While some cruise lines have been able to resume operations, such as Dream Cruises, which continued operating in Singapore and Taiwan, others are still on pause until at least June.
In the U.S. a Conditional Sailing Order remains in place until November 1, 2021. Cruise operators will need to meet specific requirements in order to operate before then. However, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Crystal Cruises are hopeful to restart North America cruising in June or July.
In the UK, multiple cruises have their sights set on the industry reopening domestic cruises after May 17. While in Canada, the transportation authority has extended its ban on cruise ships for an entire year to February 28, 2022.
Popular cruise lines planning to resume parts of their collections before June 2021 include:
- AIDA Cruises
- Aurora Expeditions
- Celestyal Cruises
- Coral Expeditions
- Viking Cruises (UK itineraries only)
- SeaDream Yacht Club
- Royal Caribbean
- Quark Expeditions
- Princess Cruises
- Marella Cruises
- Holland America Line
- G Adventures
What will cruising be like?
The cruise industry is adopting extensive health and safety measures to keep passengers safe and restore confidence in cruising.
New standards include COVID testing of all crew and guests, continuous sanitising, upgraded medical facilities and reduced numbers.
Some cruise operators are going even further, introducing daily temperature checks, thermal camera surveillance and robots to sanitise all public areas. It’s expected changes to self-service buffets will also be made.
Another factor that may have an impact on return dates is the vaccine rollout. Recently many cruise lines have started requiring guests and crew to be vaccinated before any voyage and it’s likely others will follow suit.