Royal Caribbean announced on Monday it would cancel its December 2020 cruises (excluding Quantum of the Seas in Singapore) while the cruise line prepares to restart cruise operations.
While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lifted the No Sail order, the new regulations and requirements imposed on the cruise industry to be able to restart simply means Royal Caribbean needs more time to meet the new requirements.
In a statement to travel agents, Royal Caribbean said the cancellations were necessary to prepare for restarting cruises, "We are eager to welcome our guests back onboard while keeping their safety, as well as that of our crew members, our number one priority. We’re committed to taking the time needed to do things right"
"We plan to utilize this time to thoroughly train our staff and crew on our new health and safety protocols, while also conducting a number of trial sailings to stress-test these measures in real-world conditions."
"We will continue to work closely with the CDC and the Healthy Sail Panel as we take this next step and solidify our action plan."
Cruise operations had been suspended through the end of November, but will now be extended an additional month.
Guests affected by the cancelled cruises between December 1 - 31, 2020 have three options for compensation.
Lift & Shift: Select next year’s sailing with the same itinerary type, sailing length, stateroom category, and within the same 4-week window of the original cruise date, and you can take your existing reservation and move it to next year.Option expires on November 13, 2020.
125% Future Cruise Credit: To account for the inconvenience this has caused, guests are eligible for a 125% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) that is based on the total cruise fare paid at the guest-level if neither of the other options is selected.
Taxes and fees, as well as any pre-purchased amenities or onboard packages will be automatically refunded to the original form of payment within 45 days from the cancellation date.
If you previously opted to take advantage of our Cruise with Confidence policy, the 100% FCC will stand, and this new option is ineligible.
Additionally, if you redeemed your Cruise with Confidence Future Cruise Credit on a sailing that is now cancelled, their original FCC will be reinstated, plus 125% of any amount paid by the guest on the cancelled reservation.
Refund: If you prefer a cash refund, you can do so by requesting this option on-or-before December 31, 2020.
You can expect their refund to the original form of payment within 45 days from the cancellation date.
If you redeemed a Cruise with Confidence Future Cruise Credit on an impacted sailing and would now prefer a refund instead, Royal Caribbean will process this request in the amount of any new funds paid above the original certificate and, in turn, will reinstate the Cruise with Confidence FCC for future use.
Cruise Planner Purchases: If you had purchased any cruise add-ons, such as shore excursions, drink packages, wifi and more, you could opt to convert your Cruise Planner purchases to an Onboard Credit valued at 125% of the total amount paid. This offer expires on November 13, 2020.
Time needed to be able to restart
Unlike all of the other cancellations Royal Caribbean has made up until this point, this new round of cancelled cruises is for a different reason.
Rather than being prohibited by the CDC from sailing at all, the pathway for cruises to restart as opened, and Royal Caribbean is working on satisfying the CDC's stringent rules.
Before cruises can fully resume, the CDC has outlined a series of steps that need to occur before cruise ships can begin taking passengers onboard.
The framework for conditional sailing is meant to potentially allow cruise ships to sail again while not putting the public health at risk.
There are three key phases to Royal Caribbean being able to restart cruises:
- Testing crew members
- Simulated cruises to test out new protocols
- Apply for a Conditional Sailing Certificate
In order to meet the needs of the CDC, Royal Caribbean has adopted the recommendations of the Healthy Sail Panel's 74 recommendations.
Royal Caribbean has expressed it can operate in a safe manner, and is eager to prove the Healthy Sail Panel recommendations can work effectively.
The framework for sailing again is not simple, and the CDC admits the rules can change in terms of what is needed to get cruise ships operating again from the United States.
It is not clear yet how long it will take before Royal Caribbean (or any cruise line) can receive permission to offer cruises, but clearly Royal Caribbean feels more time is needed to get it right.
While many cruise fans are very eager for cruises to resume, Royal Caribbean Group executives were insistent that they while they are equally eager to resume operations, they will only do so when it is safe to do so.
"But it's fair to say that there is still a lot of uncertainty against this backdrop, " Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said during a conference call with investors in August. "We will not rush to return to service until we are confident that we have figured out the changes that we must make to offer our guests and crew strong health and safety protocols with the enjoyable experience that they rightly expect."
"We believe that our health is healthy. Return to service program will help get us there."