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No, nobody knows if the cruise you have booked will actually sail

In:
13Jul2020
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The one question readers are asking is if their upcoming cruise in 2021 or 2022 will sail, and the simple answer is no one knows.

While Royal Caribbean currently plans to resume operations on March 1, 2021, the cruise line has pushed back its date cruises will restart a number of times, which leaves many wondering if their cruise they have booked will happen.

While the "TL;DR" answer is "no one knows", here is a look at why no one knows and what we should be looking for to get a better idea of when cruises might restart.

No way to know if your cruise will sail

So many people with cruises booked that have not been cancelled yet want to know what are the chances their cruise will happen.

The most commonly asked question I have seen in the last few months is what are the odds a sailing will be able to go, but unfortunately no one knows because there is not enough information available and too many variables to make such a prediction.

Since Royal Caribbean started its global suspension of cruises in March 2020, the cruise line has taken a "wait and see" approach to cruises resuming. They have periodically cancelled about a month worth of cruises at a time, and evaluate the ever-changing situation to determine if more cruises need to be cancelled.

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Service Vicki Freed said recently with the current climate, "things can change rather quickly," and that, "we all have to take it day by day."

At this point, there is not nearly enough information available to have insight into what Royal Caribbean (or any cruise line) is looking for in order to resume sailings.

While it stands to reason the further out your cruise is, the more time you have for the global health situation to improve, it is impossible to quantify or wager a guess as to which sailings may or may not occur.

Simply put, no one knows when exactly cruises will be able to resume sailings because the public does not have a list of milestones for Royal Caribbean to reach to start up again.

Challenges ahead

This much is clear: in order for cruises to resume, some obvious tasks need to be completed.  

This is not the complete list of what Royal Caribbean (or any cruise line) must do, but they are some of the critical steps.

Implementation of new protocols

Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings created a joint venture to craft a layered approach of protocols designed to allow cruise ships to operate safely.

The Healthy Sail Panel came up with 74 steps it believes will allow cruise lines to operate safely.

The Panel’s recommendations are grounded in the best scientific and medical information available and are intended to meaningfully mitigate public health risks to those who sail. Recommendations include testing, the use of face coverings, and enhanced sanitation procedures on ships and in terminals. 

The next step is for Royal Caribbean to take those protocols and turn them into rules and cruise line policy. There is no specific timetable when that might occur, but it is expected sooner than later.

Once Royal Caribbean comes up with their cruise line-specific rules, it will announce them and submit their plan to resume cruises to the CDC.

Government approval to sail

After Royal Caribbean crafts its new policy, it will need to submit them to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for approval.

Currently, cruise lines are under a Conditional Sail Order that requires each cruise ship to receive approval to sail. Thus far, no cruise ship has gotten the go-ahead from the cruise line.

Government restrictions and warnings have been chiefly responsible for the decision of all cruise lines to suspend operations and subsequently remain idle. Until the CDC signs off, cruising seems unlikely.

Ports of call need to open up

Even if cruises were allowed to resume immediately, many foreign ports of call remain closed to cruise traffic and/or Americans.

Royal Caribbean's ships must make at least one stop in a foreign port to satisfy the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which requires foreign flagged vessels to stop outside the United States. Essentially, it means Royal Caribbean cannot offer "cruises to nowhere".

While some Caribbean and European ports are beginning to open their borders again, cruise lines need much greater access to start back up again.

Substantial reduction in the global health threat

It may seem like the elephant in the room to not talk about, but the pandemic status likely needs to no longer be a major health crisis.

It is debatable to what extent the situation needs to improve, but the cruise industry is looking for the risks associated with operating to be substantially less.

Part of this will be achieved via the Health Sail Panel's recommendations, but a reduction in cases around the world would help ease concerns across the board.

More helpful resources

When do you think cruises will resume? Share your best guess in the comments!