Royal Caribbean International, the Miami-based cruise company whose global fleet represents a quarter of the world's cruise ships, has announced it will be extending its suspension of sailings.

In light of the current pandemic and ports being closed to cruise traffic, the company announced yesterday that it would not return to service until at least 12 May, 2020.

Due to local port restrictions, sailings out of Canada, Alaska and New England will be further suspended until July 1.

Royal Caribbean whose fleet holds 61 ships also represents the cruise brands of Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea Cruises, as well as partnerships with liners in Europe. Celebrity Cruises announced on Tuesday it is also suspending operations in line with the parent company.

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Around the world, other cruise lines have followed a similar extension of the cruise hiatus.

P&O Cruises said it would be suspending sailings to New Zealand until at least June 30, saying this was in line with the government forecast for resuming cruise activities.

During this four-month suspension the company said it will be keeping ships berthed at home ports, with crew onboard.

"A spokesperson for P&O said "All three of P&O Cruises ships are alongside at planned ports during this pause in operations. Whilst alongside, some of the crew members remain on the ship where we are creating opportunities for personal and professional development," said a spokesperson for P&O Cruises.

"We're also making it as easy as possible for the crew onboard to make contact with their families at home."

P&O says it will be leaving its three ships at port until July. Photo / Northern Advocate, Peter de Graaf
P&O says it will be leaving its three ships at port until July. Photo / Northern Advocate, Peter de Graaf

Sture Myrmell president for P&O in Australia and New Zealand said: "We are living through an unprecedented period in world history, which is making it challenging for all of us in many different ways," he said. "However, we will come through this stronger than ever alongside you, our valued guests."

Earlier this month, Viking Cruises had "made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend operations of our river and ocean vessels embarking from 12 March to 30 April 2020."

The luxury cruise line had difficulty tendering disembarkations in Indonesia for its round the world cruise, the Viking Sun, which was half-way through its itinerary.

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At the moment there are still ships at sea with passengers waiting to be repatriated.

There are at least 17 New Zealanders on the Coral Princess off the coast of Brazil, which has been refused disembarkation in Buenos Aires, Argentina Rio de Janeiro and Uruguay. A statement from Princess Cruises says the ship will continue to sail north towards the United States as it tenders for a port to disembark passengers.

Following cases of Covid-19 in Sydney linked to cruise ships Ruby Princess, Ovation of the Seas and Voyager of the Seas, Australian states have also been refusing cruise ships berth.

The Vasco da Gama which was refused tender in Perth, still has 108 New Zealanders on board. It was announced that while Australian nationals would be allowed to disembark and quarantine, other nationalities would have to remain onboard.

CMV Australia which operates the cruise liner told the Herald that they "understand that guests from New Zealand will be staying on board the ship until they can travel directly to New Zealand."

The plan to quarantine Australian guests on Rottnest island for 14 days has been delayed until Monday, by which time the cruise line says its passengers will have spent longer at sea than they will do in isolation.

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"We have recorded no health issues with any guests or crew members on board Vasco da Gama. By Monday, our guests will have been at sea for 16 days straight without disembarking the ship or being in contact with anyone."

A spokesperson for the cruise line confirmed that all passengers have either Australian or New Zealand citizenship and that they were working closely with MFAT and their Australian counterparts at DFAT to resolve the situation.


Covid19.govt.nz: The Government's official Covid-19 advisory website