At least one cruise line has officially decided to suspend operations for the rest of the year. In a statement Tuesday, Celestyal Cruises—which was hoping to get going again this summer—said it now plans to return to the water in March 2021, citing “prevailing uncertainty” surrounding travel restrictions, particularly between the United States and Europe.
As I wrote recently, the EU has relaxed its travel limitations for several dozen countries—including some outside of Europe—but the US is not among them. A large percentage of Celestyal’s customers are American, so the EU’s decision to exclude Americans from its shores forced the company’s hand.
“As the core of our season runs from the spring through the autumn, we were optimistic that we would be able to resume our cruise operations later this summer,” Celestyal Cruises chief commercial officer Leslie Peden stated.
“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 the 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.”
Celestyal Cruises is based in Athens and concentrates on cruises to various Greek islands. Greece, for its part, has done pretty well against the coronavirus, with less than 3,500 total cases.
Customers who had already booked trips with Celestyal for later this year will reportedly be given a Future Cruise Credit (FCC) voucher worth 120 percent of the original booking price. The deadline to redeem the voucher is December 2021, after which customers will instead receive a full refund.
The company said that customers do not have to request the vouchers and that they will automatically be delivered either to the customers directly or to their travel agents, because apparently people still use travel agents? Luddites unaware of commercial advancements like Google shopping agencies and travel websites.
Speaking to USA Today, Peden added:
“We felt that as a company, we have already put our travel partners and guests through enough date changes on when cruising could return safely. By voluntarily pausing operations until our scheduled departures of next year, Celestyal will be better positioned to offer more clarity and certainty to our valued partners and guests, as well as peace of mind.”