UPDATE: On March 14, President Trump announced that Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, MSC Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line will suspend all cruises from the United States for 30 days in an effort to combat the spread of Coronavirus.
In the wake of multiple outbreaks of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on cruise ships, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the State Department issued new guidance for Americans who plan to travel via ship this spring.
On Monday, March 9th, the CDC updated its ship travel guidance recommending that Americans (particularly those above 70 years of age or with pre-existing conditions) avoid all cruise ship travel stating “cruise ship passengers are at an increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19”.
In line with the updated CDC guidelines, the State Department also issued a warning for Americans to avoid travel by cruise and stated, “while the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ships passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities.”
Response from cruise lines to COVID-19
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) was in rapid response mode following updated guidelines from the CDC and State Department. The CLIA released a statement saying, “singling out the travel and tourism industry, and cruise lines specifically” was “unreasonable” and “unwarranted.”
But, with multiple outbreaks of Coronavirus on cruise ships around the world — most notably in recent news with an outbreak on the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California — many travelers are understandably nervous to take travel.
Following the new travel guidelines (and the recent classification of the virus as a pandemic) many Americans who have a cruise booked — or were planning to book a cruise in the near future — may be wondering what their options are now.
Trip protection offerings by cruise line
Responses regarding trip refunds and waivers vary by cruise line, but nearly all have addressed passenger concerns about the threat of Coronavirus ahead of their busiest travel season.
Here’s what major cruise lines have said about current and future cruise offerings in the wake of new government guidelines surrounding cruise travel:
Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Cruise Line has suspended all cruises leaving from the United States for 30 days. Passengers will be eligible to receive a future cruise credit worth the full amount of their trip which can be redeemed any time before Dec. 31, 2022.
Carnival Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Line suspended all cruises leaving from the United States for 30 days. Passengers will be eligible for a future cruise credit to compensate for the loss of their trip. This credit will be redeemable anytime until March 31, 2021.
Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Cruises announced that passengers who booked any cruise departing before July 31, 2020 are eligible to cancel the trip up to 48 hours before departure. Canceled trips can be refunded to the purchaser, or they can be rebooked for the future using “future cruise credit”. Credits must be redeemed before Dec. 31, 2021.
Disney Cruise Line: As of March 12, Disney Cruise Line announced that it is suspending all cruises. A return date has yet to be announced, but Disney did say that the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy cruise ships won’t sail until at least April.
Holland America: Holland America announced on March 12 that it would suspend all global cruise operations for 30 days. Passengers impacted by trip cancellations will receive a future credit towards a cruise of equal value and will receive a refund for their initial booking.
Princess Cruises: Beginning on March 12, Princess Cruises suspended all cruises for 60 days following outbreaks of coronavirus on two of their ships. All affected guests can reschedule their cruise for a future date of their choosing and Princess Cruises has said that passengers can expect a “generous future cruise credit”.
Royal Caribbean: Passengers who have booked a cruise with Royal Caribbean that departs before July 31 can cancel their trip for a cruise credit up to 48 hours before the departure date. Cruise credits must be redeemed before Dec. 31, 2021.
Viking Cruise Line: As of March 12, Viking Cruise Line announced that it would suspended all planned cruises until at least May 1. Passengers impacted by this suspension will be given a cruise credit to book a future trip.
MSC Cruises: MSC suspended all cruises leaving from the United States for 30 days. Passengers are eligible for a cruise credit to compensate for the loss of their trip. Cruise credits can be used anytime before Dec. 31, 2021.
Credit card travel insurance
If you have yet to book a cruise, you may be considering your travel insurance options in the case that you aren’t able to travel due to restrictions from Coronavirus. While nobody knows how long the Coronavirus is expected to last — or when a vaccine will be ready— travel insurance through your credit card could give you peace of mind when paying for your next cruise.
Travel insurance through your credit card can also alleviate any stress that might come with rebooking your cruise with “cruise credits” that are subject to expiration dates and fine print.
Here’s Bankrate’s top picks for excellent travel cards that also have trip insurance:
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
The Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card offers trip cancellation insurance that is worth up to $20,000 in coverage per trip. Additionally, the Sapphire Reserve credit card also offers travel accident insurance worth up to $1,000,000. Perhaps most useful of all in this case, the Sapphire Preferred card offers emergency evacuation coverage worth up to $100,000.
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
While the Wells Fargo Propel American Express card may not offer the same high-value trip insurance like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, it comes with travel accident insurance worth up to $150,000 and has no annual fee. If you are purchasing a cruise with this credit card you will want to make sure that the cruise line in question has trip coverage as a backup because this card only offers accident insurance — not cancellation insurance.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
If you are traveling on a budget — but still want quality trip insurance — the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card might be the sweet spot between the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card and the Wells Fargo Propel card. With an annual fee of $95 (modest compared to the $550 annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Reserve), the Chase Sapphire Preferred card offers up to $20,000 of trip cancellation protection and a trip delay reimbursement option worth up to $500 per ticket.
The outbreak of Coronavirus worldwide has made planning a cruise an uncertain venture. Whether you have already booked a trip– or are still planning your future sea voyage –staying up to date on guidelines from health officials and the government regarding sea travel is the best way to keep yourself safe and healthy. In addition to the increased risk of exposure to the coronavirus on cruise ships, many ports around the world have closed in an attempt to contain or prevent further outbreaks.
You can stay up-to-date on travel restrictions by visiting the World Health Organization’stravel advice page.
Accurate information about Coronavirus and its transmission can also be found on the CDC’s website, which has real-time updates and information for travelers.
This article was originally published on March 10 and is a developing story. Updates will be added as new information is released by health officials and cruise lines.