Cruise

Virgin Voyages postpones inaugural sailing, as cruise lines halt operations amid global pandemic

Ali Coulton

Ali Coulton

Virgin Voyages has postponed its inaugural sailing and a number of cruise lines have informed customers they will be halting operations until at least 1 May.

Sir Richard Branson said in a statement the line was focused on the current global health crisis and therefore has decided to postpone the Scarlet Lady‘s showcase tour launch and inaugural sailing until 15 July, with the maiden voyage now taking place on 7 August.

“We understand that this is affecting us all in different ways and making many people rethink upcoming cruise plans,” Branson said in the statement.

“We have spent time talking to our team, future Sailors and travel partners as we navigate this challenging moment.

“As a brand, Virgin has always championed our customers and, most importantly, listened to them. With those principles in mind and based on your feedback, our team has made the very difficult decision to postpone…”

This comes as Princess Cruises, Viking and Celestyal said they would temporarily suspend operations due to the continued spread of COVID-19 and increased government restrictions and advisories.

Princess Cruises said it was pausing operations of its 18 cruise ships for two months in an “abundance of caution” from 12 March to 10 May.

“Princess Cruises is a global vacation company that serves more than 50,000 guests daily from 70 countries as part of our diverse business, and it is widely known that we have been managing the implications of COVID-19 on two continents,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises.

“By taking this bold action of voluntarily pausing the operations of our ships, it is our intention to reassure our loyal guests, team members and global stakeholders of our commitment to the health, safety and wellbeing of all who sail with us, as well as those who do business with us, and the countries and communities we visit around the world,”

The line advised that those currently on a cruise that will end in the next five days will continue to sail as expected to the end of the itinerary, however, voyages that are underway and extend beyond 17 March will be ended at the most convenient location for guests, factoring in operational requirements.

Princess is also offering guests the opportunity to transfer the money they paid for their cancelled cruise to a future cruise of their choice.

Viking’s chairman Torstein Hagen advised guests in a letter and video that the line will be suspending operations until 1 May.

“I am sure you recognize that COVID-19 has made travel exceedingly complicated,” Hagen said.

“An increasing number of ports, including Venice, Monte Carlo and Bergen, have temporarily closed to cruise ships; major attractions such as the Vatican and other museums have been closed; and some countries are imposing restrictions on public gatherings and visitors.”

“We have made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend operations of our river and ocean vessels embarking from 12 March to 30 April 2020 – at which time we believe Viking will be in a better place to provide the experiences our guests expect and deserve.

“Rest assured, our reservations team is currently in the process of issuing Future Cruise Vouchers of 125 per cent of all monies paid to Viking. However, if you would prefer the alternative please call Viking on 138 747 or contact your Travel Agent by 25 March 2020.”

Celestyal Cruises is also suspending operations until 1 May.

“For all named and fully-paid guests impacted by this temporary suspension, we will offer the choice of either a Future Cruise Credit valued at 120 per cent of original booking value or a refund of original amount paid,” the line said in a statement.

“Guests will have until the end of December 2021 to use their Future Cruise Credit against any of our itineraries. For additional flexibility, anyone that has not used their Future Cruise Credit within the specified period will automatically receive a refund equal to the original amount paid to Celestyal.”

Despite Princess Cruises decision to halt its sailings, Carnival Cruise Line has advised that both Holland America Line and Cunard will be continuing operations but are monitoring the situation closely and will actively review itineraries and operations.

Travel Weekly has reached out to Royal Caribbean to find out if any of its brands will suspend sailings but is yet to receive a response.

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