Princess Cruises cancels majority of Alaska sailings and delays new ship launch

Princess Cruises is paring back its presence in Alaska this summer and delaying the launch of new ship Enchanted Princess.

The action is being taken as the US line extends the suspension of all cruises until June 30 in continued response to the impact of the global outbreak of coronavirus.

The fresh cancellations follow the 17-ship company previously announcing a two-month pause in operations between March 12 and May 10.

The line has been among the worst hit by outbreaks of the virus on its ships.

The launch of new 3,660-passenger Enchanted Princess, which was due to be named in Southampton on June 30, has been delayed due to the impact on the virus on shipbuilding in Italy, president Jan Swartz revealed in a video message.

A new delivery date has not been confirmed and Enchanted Princess sailings in Europe have been cancelled until July 31.

A spokesperon said: “Princess Cruises confirms that the delivery of Enchanted Princess is delayed. A new delivery date has not been determined since the Fincantieri yard in Monfalcone, Italy remains closed. Voyages through July 31 have been cancelled.

“The delivery delay is due to the country-wide lockdown imposed by the Italian government and public health officials in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The naming ceremony scheduled to take place in Southampton on June 30 has been cancelled. Inaugural activities are under review in conjunction with changes to the ship deployment.”

All Alaska Gulf cruises and cruise tours are also affected. The five wilderness lodges, trains and buses operated by Princess in Alaska will not open this summer, impacting 3,500 seasonal jobs in the state.

The company had planned to deploy four ships in Alaska over the summer plus two operating from San Francisco and Los Angeles.

However, the line hopes to continue sailings from Seattle to Alaska on Emerald Princess and Ruby Princess.

“The shortened summer season has made it simply not viable to operate our five Princess wilderness lodges, all our trains and our buses throughout Alaska in 2020,” Swartz said.

“We deeply regret we will not be able to employ the approximately 3,500 team mates who help show our guests the ‘great land’ each summer. Our thoughts are also with all our small business partners throughout Alaska who we’ve supported every summer for decades.

“We know these decisions will have a large adverse economic impact on the state of Alaska which relies on tourism.”

Referring to last week’s order from the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to extend the ‘no sail order’ for cruise ships for at least 100 days, Swartz said: “This global outbreak continues to challenge our world in unimaginable ways.

“We recognise how disappointing this is to our long-term business partners and thousands of employees, many of whom have been with us in Alaska for decades.

“We hope everyone impacted by these cancellations – especially our guests, travel agent partners, teammates, and the communities we visit – understand our decision to do our part to protect the safety, health and well-being of our guests and team.

“We look forward to the brighter days and smooth seas ahead for all of us.”

Each ship will have a specific return to service date after July 1, based on previously published cruise itineraries with some modifications.

For example, Diamond Princess, which was quarantined in Japan after more than 700 passengers and crew tested positive for coronavirus and, will not return to service until August 4.

Princess pledged to protect travel agent commissions on bookings for cancelled cruises that were paid in full, “in recognition of the critical role travel agents play in the cruise line’s business and success”.

Passengers booked on the newly cancelled voyages, who have paid in full, will receive a future cruise credit equivalent to 100% of the cruise rate paid plus an additional 25% for use on a cruise that sails on or before May 1, 2022.

Alternatively, full refunds are being offered but must be claimed by May 31.

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