Leading cruise line Cunard cancels all winter plans and hopes to resume voyages in spring

One of the UK’s leading cruise lines has cancelled all its winter plans – and will not re-start operations until late March at the earliest.

Cunard has revealed an extended “pause in operations” that is far longer than those previously announced.

It means that the company, part of the giant Carnival Corporation, will go for a full year without carrying paying passengers.

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The Foreign Office has warned against all ocean-going cruising indefinitely, and many countries have imposed draconian rules on travellers’ movements.

The complexity of the cruise industry, involving crew and customers from across the world, and voyages typically calling at many destinations, has made it particularly vulnerable to the tangle of restrictions surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Two weeks ago Seabourn and Cunard’s sister firm, P&O Cruises, extended their shutdowns – with some re-starts postponed until 2021. But Cunard’s move is even more dramatic.

The first ship to sail is hoped to be Queen Elizabeth on 25 March 2021.

Her entire programme for the following nine months, intended to include Australia, Japan and Alaska, has been cancelled. Instead, the initial voyages will all start and end in Southampton, and will sail around the coast of Cornwall, the west coast of Ireland and the Scottish Isles.

The first Continental journeys will be to Amsterdam – assuming the Netherlands is off the no-go list by then – with voyages to northern and southern European destinations including Norway and the Iberian coast.

Many of the itineraries will involve the ship remaining in port overnight in key cities. They will be available to book from 29 September 2020.

Queen Mary 2 is expected to start her next voyage on 18 April 2021, with Queen Victoria following on 16 May 2021.

The president of Cunard, Simon Palethorpe, said: “After very careful consideration and reviewing the latest guidance, we simply do not feel it would be sensible to start sailing again with our current schedule so we have reviewed future itineraries.

“We are so sorry to all those guests who were due to sail on any of the cancelled voyages and for the disappointment this news will cause.”

Passengers with existing bookings that have now been cancelled can choose between a full cash refund or a voucher offering a 25 per cent bonus.

Looking ahead to 2022, Cunard plans what it calls a “classic World Voyage” for Queen Mary 2 from January to April.

It amounts to a journey via the Suez Canal to Australia and back. The itinerary is Greece, Dubai, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Australia outbound, returning via Bali, Abu Dhabi, Oman, Italy and Portugal.

Marella, the cruise brand of Britain’s biggest holiday company, Tui, has also announced a further delay in re-starting cruises.

All sailings up to and including 15 November 2020 have been cancelled. On 16 or 17 November, Marella Explorer is expected to sail from Gran Canaria or Tenerife.

Marella Explorer 2 plans a departure on 29 November from Barbados. But Marella Discovery, Marella Discovery 2 and Marella Dream will not sail until next year.

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