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Royal Caribbean cancels cruises through February 2021 while preparing to restart

In:
02Dec2020
By: 
Matt Hochberg

It now will be at least March before you can get on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Royal Caribbean announced on Wednesday it has cancelled January and February 2021 cruises that were scheduled in order to provide more time to prepare to restart cruise operations.

There are two exceptions: Singapore sailings onboard Quantum of the Seas, and Spectrum of the Seas’ China departures between January 24 - February 28, 2021. 

In addition, the remainder of the Australia/New Zealand season has been cancelled — through April 2021.

Cruise fans may have hoped there would be a chance for cruises to begin in 2021, but unfortunately Royal Caribbean needs more time to prepare for all of the new requirements that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has placed on all cruise lines to demonstrate the new health protocols are effective at preventing the spread of any disease on a cruise ship.

In a statement sent via email, Royal Caribbean said it needs more time to get things right, " As we strengthen our continued partnership with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), please know that we are taking a very thorough approach and, therefore, require a little extra time."

Cruise operations had been suspended through the end of December 2020, but will now be extended an additional two months.

Read moreWhat you should do now that Royal Caribbean cancelled your cruise

Compensation

Guests affected by the cancelled cruises between January 1 - February 28,  2021, 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 December 16, 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. This will be automatically issued on or before January 15, 2021 if no other option 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 March 31, 2021.

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.

More prep time needed

While the CDC lifted the No Sail order at the end of October, 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.

Before Royal Caribbean can start offering cruises again, it needs to hit all of the steps outlined by the CDC.

The CDC added all of these requirements to allow the cruise lines to test out its proposed new protocols, while protecting the health of the public in the interim period.

The three phases of getting permission to restart passenger cruises are:

  1. Testing crew members
  2. Simulated cruises to test out new protocols
  3. Apply for a Conditional Sailing Certificate

The entire cruise industry has adopted a sweeping range of new protocols outlined by the recommendations made by the Healthy Sail Panel earlier this summer.  There are 74 recommendations on how cruise ships can be operated safely during the currrent global health crisis.

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 unknown how long it will take Royal Caribbean to complete all of the necessary steps and subsequently obtain permission to cruise again.

For its part, Royal Caribbean has been adamant about taking as much time as it needs to get everything right.

"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."