(1:08 p.m. EDT) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause cancellations through the fall, some lines are looking at longer suspensions well into 2021 or even moved to 2022.
Celestyal Cruises became the first cruise line to cancel all sailings for the rest of this year, with a new start date of March 2021. The Greece-based line, which operates primarily in the Greek isles, put the decision down to uncertainty about travel into the European Union.
It was hoped with Greece's very low Covid-19 infection rate plus two relatively small ships it could restart operations this summer. However, the line relies heavily on US citizens, which under today's EU ruling are banned from the bloc.
“As the core of our season runs from spring through the autumn, we were optimistic that we would be able to resume our cruise operations later this summer," said the line's Chief Commercial Officer Leslie Peden.
"However, given the prevailing uncertainty regarding travel restrictions through the balance of our operating season from our largest international source markets coupled with the continuing discussions at European Union level regarding the enhanced health protocols that will apply to EU cruise operations, we made the difficult but prudent decision to postpone resuming cruise operations until the scheduled start of our normal spring season next year."
The move by Celestyal follows that of charter cruise operators, who have postponed some of their early 2021 cruises to the following year, 2022.
StarVista, one of the larger music charter companies, has moved several of its popular cruises, including the 70s Rock and Romance Cruise, the Ultimate Disco Cruise and Soul Train to 2022. The Country Music Cruise was moved from January 2021 to November 2021.
Entertainment Cruise Productions (ECP) has canceled their jazz theme cruises originally scheduled for early 2021, and rescheduled them for 2022. The charter company has yet to cancel the Star Trek or The 80s theme cruises; guest instalment payments for the latter have been suspended until July 31, 2020, as the company awaits health safety protocols from Royal Caribbean.
"Once the new safety measures are issued, we will work with our representatives at Royal Caribbean to determine what impact, if any, these protocols will have on our ability to produce a cruise that meets our exceptionally high safety and performance standards," ECP said in a newsletter to guests booked on The 80s Cruise.
It's too soon to determine whether other lines will join Celestyal in cancelling into 2021.
Most mainstream cruise lines have suspended sailings until at least September 15, following an announcement by industry body the Cruise Lines Industry Association. A handful, including Cunard, have pushed their return to sail dates back to November, but these are the first cancelations into next year.
A number of lines have resumed services, including Hurtigruten and SeaDream, for nationalities that can sail, in those cases Norwegians and Danish passengers. Variety Cruises and Dream Cruises are supposed to begin cruising towards the end of July, while small American cruise lines are targeting mid-July or August for resumption of service.