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Royal Caribbean extends suspension of cruises an additional 30 days due to coronavirus

In:
Category: 
24Mar2020

Royal Caribbean announced it has extended its voluntary suspension of cruises an additional 30 days due to coronavirus.

The cruise line had cancelled all sailings through April 10, and will now cancel all cruises through May 11, 2020.  

Royal Caribbean expects to return to service on May 12, 2020.

We are working with our guests to address this disruption to their vacations, and we are genuinely sorry for their inconvenience. We are also working with our crew to sort out the issues this decision presents for them.

In addition, due to port closures around the world, Royal Caribbean added they expect to return to service for Alaska, Canada and New England sailings July 1, 2020.

Like the previous 30 days of cancelled sailings, guests impacted by this round of cancellations can choose between a 100% refund or 125% Future Cruise Credit. Future Cruise Credits will be automatically issued on April 30, 2020.

Any pre-purchased amenities and packages, such as internet, beverage, dining or RoyalUp upgrades, will be automatically refunded. Royal Caribbean Travel Protection will also be refunded.

The global outbreak of coronavirus has impacted all sectors of travel, and all cruise lines have had to put further sailings on hold. Royal Caribbean had announced just a pause for 30 days, while some cruise lines opted to delay resuming sailings for a longer period of time. MSC Cruises paused for 45 days and Viking Cruises opted to wait until May 1, 2020.

UPDATE 6:04PM: Voyager of the Seas in Singapore is scheduled to return to service in June 2020.

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7 Experts share their advice for traveling after COVID-19

In:
Category: 
24Mar2020

Whether by cruise ship or airplane or car, so many people relish traveling as a way to see the world, revisit history, and enjoy great food along the way. The outbreak of COVID-19 has changed everything, and travel has been particularly hard hit.

Between the lockdowns, cruise lines suspending operations, and the economy taking a hit, it seemed appropriate to reach out to a few travel experts for what their advice would be given the global impact of this virus.

I contacted seven of the very best cruise experts to ask them what travel advice they would share to anyone who wants to get out there again. Here is what they had to say.

It could take a while

"Be patient. But also be aware that it could be a while. If 30 days from now, the situation around the world is still a mess, the cruise lines could decide to extend the period even longer.

The only people who want the ships to be sailing more than would-be guests is the cruise lines themselves."

- Doug Parker (Host of Cruise Radio)

Be Flexible

"Don't let today's concerns keep you from planning future trips - planning now can also give you something to look forward to while your vacations may otherwise be on hold.  

If you have an upcoming trip you don't think will work out, don't cancel earlier than required by providers' policies; you don't want to cancel a trip you could have taken, plus, if a travel provider decides to cancel, they may offer better terms than you'll get cancelling on your own.  

Above all else, be flexible; as unprecedented as this is to your life, the same is true for businesses."

Billy Hirsch (Cruise Expert, CruiseHabit.com)

Stay up-to-date

"These are unprecedented times across the globe, and certainly for the cruise industry. The best piece of advice right now is to stay up-to-date on the latest policies and updates from your cruise line.

Changes continue to be made daily – and compensation continues to be announced for impacted cruises, so it’s more important than ever to keep in contact with the line, fellow cruisers and/or your travel advisor for the latest updates as they’re made."

- Colleen McDaniel (Editor-in-Chief of Cruise Critic)

Wait it out

"The advice we're sharing with our community right now is to be as patient as possible. Whether that means you're on pins and needles wondering if your late Spring cruise gets cancelled, or booking another cruise in the near future, we're all anxious to have some answers!

But, we think waiting just a few more weeks to see how the remainder of this month pans out before taking action is a good move for most. If you're anxious to book, consider securing a deal on a cruise sailing later in the year, or into 2021. There's much less cancellation risk, and lots of great cabins available."

- Sheri Griffiths (Host of CruiseTipsTV)

Stay safe and stay positive

"It's tough not being able to cruise now and knowing exactly when we can get back out there, but I'm definitely trying to stay positive. We all know this will pass and cruise travel will come back strong. I feel badly for people who might be struggling with income and lack of work at these times, though."

If you are passionate about travel and cruising, it can be of some comfort to start planning for a cruise or trip for later this year (or even next year) so that you have something to look forward to -- while also taking advantage of some great prices and relaxed policies on cancellations for rebooking.

Like most people, I've been already getting a bit of cabin fever as we spend most of our days stuck in the home, but it's helped to be able to look for deals and get excited about planning for some time at sea once this all passes. There is going to be a huge amount of pent-up demand and energy for cruising and travel in general when things get back to normal."

- John Roberts (Travel writer, In The Loop Travel)

There's no rush to decide now

"If you’re thinking of booking a trip for the next few months, my advice there, too, is that there’s no rush. I think pricing is going to come down significantly on close-in departures in the coming months. We haven’t seen crazy deals yet for close-in departures – at least not in a widespread way. But we will. Cruise lines appear to be holding off on the crazy deals until they have a better sense of when they will be able to resume sailing. Once that becomes more clear, I expect some very heavy discounting and value-add promotions on the close-in sailings. They will be desperate to refill the ships.

I would warn people that it may be longer than they think before cruise ships begin sailing again. It’s very hard to say at this point. There are so many variables. But we may be looking at several months, at least, in some regions of the world.

Also, I would recommend that anyone spending a significant amount of money on a future cruise right now pay the extra money to buy a travel insurance policy that includes reimbursement coverage if a travel provider such as a cruise line or airline fails. I’m not saying this is going to happen. But it’s prudent in a time like this to be covered for the worst possible outcome. Not every travel insurance policy covers the collapse of a travel provider. It’s important to read the fine print in a policy before buying it. Generally, the policies sold directly through cruise lines, for instance, do not cover this."

- Gene Sloan, (Senior Reporter, Cruise and Travel at The Points Guy)

Be Patient

"We are in uncharted waters right now, sailing through heavy fog, searching for a glimpse of the lighthouse to lead us out of these unprecedented times. It may be a tough pill to swallow, but this is going to play on as it plays out.

The best advice I can give anyone booked or looking to book a cruise is to be patient. It doesn't matter which cruise line, or ship, the next cruise we each go on is going to be amazing for the simple fact we are back to normalcy in our daily lives."

Scott Sanders (Cruise Expert, DisneyCruiseLineBlog.com)

Royal Caribbean takes out $2.2 billion loan to protect improve company's position against Coronavirus impact

In:
23Mar2020

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced it has entered into a $2.2 billion 364-day secured term loan facility, further enhancing the company's liquidity position.  

The loan comes as cruise lines, and the entire cruise industry, face tremendous challenges due to the worldwide spread of COVID-19.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. is the parent company of Royal Caribbean International, and operates sister brands Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea Cruises.

The facility can be extended at the company's option for an additional 364 days.  The company has borrowed the full amount available under the term loan to further bolster its liquidity.

Including this new financing, the company has over $3.6 billion of liquidity comprised of cash deposits and its existing undrawn revolving credit facilities (net of outstanding commercial paper).  

In addition, the company has committed financing for all of its new ships on order.

"This is a period of unprecedented disruption for the cruise industry," said Jason T. Liberty, executive vice president and CFO.  "We continue to take decisive actions to protect the company's financial and liquidity positions as they enable us to keep focused on our guests, our crew and our long-term plans."

Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Bank of America, BNP Paribas and Goldman Sachs acted as joint lead arrangers and bookrunners on the secured term loan facility.  Morgan Stanley is acting as an Administrative Agent and Collateral Agent on the facility.  Perella Weinberg Partners LP served as financial advisor and Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP served as legal advisor to the company in connection with the secured term loan facility.

Will my upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic?

In:
Category: 
20Mar2020

Perhaps no other question is on the lips of so many Royal Caribbean cruisers these days as if their upcoming cruise in the next few months will actually sail or not.

In fact, the question is not relegated to sailings leaving in the next 30, 60 or even 90 days.  Some of our readers are curious about cruises around Thanksgiving, Christmas and even into 2021.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting shutdowns, social distancing and month-long suspension of cruises has almost everyone contemplating what to expect next.

The short answer to the question of if your cruise will sail or not is: no one knows, yet. If you have a Royal Caribbean cruise coming up, unfortunately the only thing we can do at this point is wait and see.

The official word from Royal Caribbean is their, "goal is to resume operations on April 11th, 2020." 

It seems the cruise lines, the airlines, hotels, Pizza Hut and pretty much every business is in a "wait and see" pattern.  What we know and policies and new guidelines are changing on a daily basis.

It is equally possible the situation will improve as it pertains to the spread of coronavirus, just as much as it could deteriorate. 

Royal Caribbean is working to comply with guidance from CDC, WHO, public health authorities around the world, and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA). They are balancing the need to operate their business, with the health needs, regulations and best practices that are emerging and changing every day.  All of this makes predicting the future incredibly difficult.

Unfortunately, there is little way to accurately predict what to expect weeks and months from now, so we are all in a "wait and see" state.

What about cruises to Canada or Europe? Ports are already closed off, so how could my cruise sail?

We are seeing some countries elect to close off its cruise ports in the first days and weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, leading cruisers to question how any sailing to these regions could possibly take place.

Canada announced a ban on cruise ships until July 1, Spain has its ports closed, along with New Zealand.

Royal Caribbean has not commented on the situation in any of these countries, nor provided any guidance on what to expect beyond April 11.

Ultimately, all the cruise lines are betting on things rapidly improving. 

If Royal Caribbean was to cancel sailings for another month or two, and then the situation where to change where they could sail, it would be impossible to "un-cancel" a sailing. For all intents and purposes, the strategy right now appears to be keep the sailing going, and cancel when it is absolutely, positively clear the sailing must be canceled.

How will I know if my cruise is canceled?

 

When Royal Caribbean cancels a cruise, they will notify guests and their travel agents directly.

You can expect at the very least an email to the reservation holder, as well as the travel agent to inform them of the cruise cancelation, as well as refund options. 

If the suspension of cruises is extended, I will share that news on this blog as well.

If the current 30 day suspension of cruising is any indication, Royal Caribbean will provide plenty of time to decide on which refund option to choose. Your best bet is avoid trying to call Royal Caribbean, because hold times are usually excessive with many guests trying to get answers at once.

First and foremost, tap your travel agent for assistance in getting answers. There is also a self-service form for guests who want a refund that can expedite cancelation requests.

What you should expect going forward

Ordinarily, waiting until very close to a sail date would be quite difficult for most people to deal with in a logistical sense, but Royal Caribbean and the entire travel sector have relaxed cancellation and trip-change policies to a point there is little to no financial risk in waiting.

Royal Caribbean offers guests the Cruise with Confidence program, that allows cancellations up to 48 hours before sailing. Pretty much every airline is waving change fees and penalties as well. This means you have a great deal of flexibility in deciding to cancel your trip just days before your cruise is set to depart.

If we learned anything from the sailings that were canceled when Royal Caribbean took a 30-day voluntary suspension of cruises, it is that a change can come with little warning. The 30 days of canceled sailings was announced less than 24 hours prior to the first affected sailing was to depart. With there being still three weeks until that April 10 date to go, do not expect an answer soon.

Equally important, is guests on cancelled cruises received greater compensation than those that opted to cancel prior to the pause of sailings. If receiving a full refund (instead of a Future Cruise Credit) and/or extra money back is important to you, then you may consider waiting things out and letting Royal Caribbean make the decision for you.

The bottom line is we all have to wait and see what happens on a global scale, and evaluate what Royal Caribbean will do based on the situation at that time. No one enjoys to wait and see, but it is what every sector of business and government is engaged in doing during this unparalleled time.

Royal Caribbean Chairman shares reassuring message in midst of Coronavirus outbreak

In:
02Mar2020

The travel industry has been hit particularly hard by the Coronavirus outbreak, and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain appealed directly to the travel agent community to remain vigilant.

Mr. Fain sent a video to travel agents who sell cruises on Royal Caribbean, as well as her sister brands, and urged despite the tumultuous situation at hand with the Coronavirus, better times are still to come.

"This is a tough time - a really tough time - and all of us know it, because all of us are going through it together."

"After reading enough of the endless media reports about Coronavirus, it's really easy to think that the world is coming to an end. Well, I have a spoiler alert: it's not. We're all spending time worrying, and that's natural, because we're in a storm, and when you're in the middle of a storm, it certainly feels like it'll never end. But as with most storms, it gets worse before it gets better, but it's hard to remember that this too shall pass. And while the virus is something to be taken seriously, it's not a cause for panic - not in a personal sense, and not in a business sense either."

"As far as the business impact on our business, it ain't pretty. In fact, to use a technical term I learned in business school, it sucks."

"We've absolutely sailed through rough waters like this before, and we've weathered every storm side-by-side with you. We all vividly remember dealing with all the impacts of 9/11 had on revenue, and on our operations. And remember the last pandemic, the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009? Or the Ebola scare? In each case, it felt to me at least, like the rough seas were never going to end. But in each case, they did."

"We are a strong and growing company in a strong and growing industry, and that's the walk we're walking. Because when this is finally behind us, and it will be behind us, we are going to be in a position to take advantage and to move forward at a fast pace."

"The bad news is that we're in a tough patch. The good news is that we're in it together, and together, we'll get to the better part sooner than you think."

While the video is directed to travel agents, I believe it is a good reminder to us all that, as Mr. Fain said, this too shall pass. 

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