Viking and Princess cruise lines announced Thursday that they would temporarily stop sailings and give refunds and future cruise credits because of the coronavirus pandemic. The actions are unprecedented in an industry that has been hit hard by on-board outbreaks and the U.S. State Department advising travelers against taking a cruise right now.
Other cruise lines earlier said they would allow passengers to cancel their voyages, some with as little as 48 hours’ notice, and receive a full credit for a future sailing, depending on the dates you are scheduled to sail. These include Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Azamara, Silversea, Oceania, Disney and Carnival.
Viking will halt river and ocean cruises from Thursday through April 30, according to a statement. Passengers who want a full refund need to calling the company at (833) 900-0951 or their travel agent by March 25.
Those who prefer to postpone their cruise will receive a cruise voucher worth 125% of the amount they paid. Passengers will have 24 months to use the voucher for any river, ocean or expedition trip. If you don't, you'll get an automatic refund.
Princess Cruises will halt sailing of its 18 ships from Thursday through May 10. President Jan Swartz in a statement said: "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."
Current Princess cruises underway for the next five days or shorter will complete their itineraries. Others sailing beyond March 17 will disembark "at the most convenient location for guests, factoring in operational requirements," the statement said.
Princess also is offering a refund to passengers. The company asks passengers not to call but to fill out an online cancellation form here (which had not been set up as of midday Thursday) or contact their travel agent.
The cruise line also will give passengers a future cruise plus extra on-board credit if they postpone their journey. It's good for sailings through May 1, 2022. The offer applies to passengers who paid for their fare and canceled their cruise on or after Feb. 4.
The move comes after Princess was criticized for its handling of outbreaks aboard two of its ships. The Diamond Princess, which was quarantined off the coast of Yokahama, Japan, last month, had 696 cases and seven deaths related to the virus.
The Grand Princess, which had about 3,500 crew and passengers on board, was temporarily stranded along California's coast before being allowed to dock in Oakland on Monday. On that ship, 21 crew members and passengers had tested positive. Passengers have been sent to quarantine sites in California, mostly on military bases.
The State Department on Sunday advised Americans not to take a cruise. "U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship at this time. CDC notes increased risk of infection of COVID-19 in a cruise ship environment," the advisory says.