The cruise industry may have pressed the pause button on late spring and early summer sailings, but most passengers are staying loyal, with cruise lines reporting that up to 75 per cent of customers are rescheduling rather than cancelling their bookings.
Peak season for UK departures to the Mediterranean is April to October, and many cruise lines have been quick to offer a full refund or a 125 per cent transfer to a future cruise.
Themed sailings, such as the 2020 Oberammergau Passion Play voyages, are being reorganised for 2022 but at this year’s prices.
Bargain beauties: Book a 2021 cruise at a fraction of the original cost — and get added extras
And guests now missing out on Dutch spring gardens sailings can reschedule for 2021, usually without penalty.
Here, we answer your questions about booking future cruises.
Q. When will cruise lines start operating again?
A. Nobody knows. Currently, cruises are suspended until mid-May to early June — and this could be extended. However, most companies are already coming up with some tantalising offers, especially to those who have booked with them before.
For example, a heavily discounted eight-night, all-inclusive cruise in a veranda suite on luxury ship Seabourn Odyssey starts from £2,349 pp, on December 12, 2020.
This includes UK return flights, drinks and tips, with calls including Bridgetown, Barbados; Rodney Bay, Antigua; Great Harbour, Jost Van Dyke; Carambola Beach, St Kitts; and St George’s, Grenada (planetcruise.com, 0808 278 8504).
Q. Are there any new routes planned for next year, and can I book one now?
A. Yes. Every year, cruise lines introduce new itineraries and bookings are open for 2021 and 2022 sailings.
In 2021, tall ship Star Flyer will sail into the Greek islands with three maiden ports of call — Symi, Chalki and Kastellorizo — on round-trips from Athens. Seven-night July 2021 departures, with a 10 per cent early booking discount, start from £1,715 pp (starclippers.co.uk, 0845 200 6145).
And Cunard’s Queen Victoria will be sailing into Bornholm — a Danish island in the Baltic Sea, east of Denmark, south of Sweden, north-east of Germany and north of the westernmost part of Poland — during her St Petersburg & Baltic Explorer cruise from Southampton on June 27, 2021. Fourteen nights cost from £1,599 pp (cunard.co.uk, 0344 3388 650).
Q. How are river cruises affected?
A. All sailings are postponed until at least the end of May, with some lines not re-starting until July. Again, these dates may change.
New 2021 sailings include APT’s French river cruises along the Rhone and Saone, which feature a private dining experience at the famous L’Abbaye de Collonges restaurant, founded by the late French chef Paul Bocuse. The eight-day Colours of Provence trip costs from £2,695 pp departing July 8, 2021 (aptouring.co.uk, 0800 012 6683).
Q. What incentives are there for loyal customers?
Booking early means securing the best cabins and sailing dates on many cruises
A Regular passengers receive early-bird brochures and offers to secure exclusive discounts.
Booking early means securing the best cabins and sailing dates and, depending on the number of nights sailed, guests can also enjoy many privileges on board.
Generous credit and discounts, cabin upgrades, complimentary laundry service, early boarding and disembarkation, plus a chauffeur service, are all up for grabs.
Q. What’s happening with cancellation policies?
A This month, Royal Caribbean, which includes Azamara and Celebrity Cruises, extended its policy to allow guests to cancel up to 48 hours prior to sailings on new and existing bookings to September 1.
P&O Cruises is offering 100 per cent refunds or 125 per cent future credit, while Viking Cruises has a 125 per cent future cruise credit offer and a risk-free guarantee.
Q. Why has cruising been hit so hard by the coronavirus?
A. Cruise lines have a duty to report cases of illness, so the information has been transparent — cases have been widely covered in the media. Airlines, hotels, restaurants and tourist attractions have avoided such scrutiny.
Q. What’s happening to empty ships?
Some empty cruises ships are being repurposed to create temporary hospitals
A. Some are being adapted for medical purposes, including CroisiEurope’s river ship MS Botticelli, which is moored on the River Seine and is now home to up to 25 nurses working at the Pompidou Hospital in Paris.
Meanwhile, MSC Group, the parent company of MSC Cruises, has converted ferry ship Splendid into a floating hospital near Liguria, in Italy. Saga Cruises and Carnival Corporation have offered to create temporary hospitals.
Q. What changes can we expect on future cruise ship sailings?
A. All cruise lines have implemented mandatory temperature screenings as well as prevention and control measures. No one who has had close contact with a person suspected to have or diagnosed with the coronavirus can board.
Q. What is the latest news on ships carrying sick passengers and crew?
A. Ruby Princess is anchored near Sydney with more than 1,000 crew on board while negotiations continue with the Australian Government. Pacific Princess disembarked most passengers in Fremantle, Australia, and is due back in Los Angeles this month.
A small number of British passengers are aboard expedition ship Greg Mortimer, which has been stuck off the coast of Uruguay. Disembarkation is expected over the next few days.