Princess Cruises, the world’s second largest cruise operator with a fleet of 18 vessels, announced Thursday it is suspending all operations for the next two months due to the coronavirus crisis, allowing passengers currently on board to complete their voyages over the next few days.
The company, a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation, said that it will “voluntarily pause global operations of its 18 cruise ships for two months (60 days), impacting voyages departing March 12 to May 10.”
It said the decision came as a “proactive response to the unpredictable circumstances evolving from the global spread of COVID-19 and in an abundance of caution.”
The cruise operator suffered a major setback from two separate coronavirus outbreaks on board its ships.
The Grand Princess, linked to the first death from coronavirus in California on March 4, was held off the coast of San Francisco, with 21 people on board reporting possible symptoms.
Earlier, the Diamond Princess was quarantined in the port of Yokohama on February 4 for nearly a month with all passengers on board, and her passengers and crew were subject to further quarantine after disembarking. At least 696 out of the 3,711 passengers and crew were infected, and seven died.
On January 20, an 80-year-old passenger from Hong Kong had embarked in Yokohama, sailed one segment of the itinerary, and disembarked in Hong Kong on January 25. He visited a local Hong Kong hospital, six days after leaving the ship, where he later tested positive for COVID-19 on 1 February.
“Princess Cruises is a global vacation company that serves more than 50,000 guests daily from 70 countries and it is widely known that we have been managing the implications of COVID-19 on two continents,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises.
“It is our intention to reassure our guests, team members and global stakeholders of our commitment to the health, safety and well-being of all who sail with us, as well as those who do business with us, and the countries and communities we visit around the world,” added Swartz.
Those currently onboard a cruise that will end in the next five days will continue to sail as expected to the end of the itinerary so that onward travel arrangements are not disrupted.
Current voyages that are underway and extend beyond March 17 will be ended at the most convenient location for guests, factoring in operational requirements, Princess Cruises said, adding that it “will do everything possible to return each guest home with the greatest amount of care possible. During this time, our operations and medical teams across the fleet will remain vigilant in their care and service for guests and crew onboard.”
Princess Cruises also said that it will be offering guests a credit scheme allowing them “the opportunity to transfer 100% of the money paid for their cancelled cruise to a future cruise of their choice. As a bonus, the company will add an additional generous future cruise credit benefit which can be applied to the cruise fare or onboard expenses.”
In addition, Princess said it will honour this offer for those guests who had made final payment and cancelled their booking on or after February 4, 2020. The future cruise credit can be used on any voyage departing through May 1, 2022.
If the future cruise credit option does not work for some guests, they will be able to complete an electronic form on Princess.com to request a cash refund.
In a video posted on YouTube, Jan Swartz shares that “while this is a difficult business decision, we firmly believe it is the right one and is in alignment with our company’s core values. Rest assured the long-serving and dedicated professionals at our company will make best use of this time to prepare Princess Cruises’ fleet of cruise ships for a successful return to operation to serve our guests by delivering an exceptional vacation experience.”
Princess Cruises said it plans to be back in operation beginning with cruises departing May 11, 2020.