Timeline: 2020-2021 Cruise Industry Shutdown

As the cruise industry shutdown continues to have a global impact, it’s sometimes hard to remember exactly how we got to where we are today.

It’s safe to say that nobody could have foreseen how serious the current health crisis would become, let alone how it would impact every aspect of our lives.

Carnival Cruise ship
(Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

But they say that those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it. So, in an effort to make sure we never forget the cruise industry shutdown, we are providing a detailed timeline of the events that unfolded in 2020 and 2021, even as the industry begins to ramp back up.

Do you want to look at a particular period in the timeline? Simply click on the link corresponding to the month in question.

January 2020 | February 2020 | March 2020| April 2020 | May 2020 | June 2020July 2020 | August 2020 | September 2020October 2020 | November 2020 | December 2020January 2021  | February 2021 | March 2021 | April 2021 | May 2021 | June 2021 | July 2021 | August 2021 | September 2021

December 2019


  • First reports of a new virus begin to emerge from China, with reports of 27 infected patients in the city of Wuhan. It would later be speculated that the disease actually may have developed and spread earlier in various parts of the world, but Wuhan is still largely considered to have been Ground Zero due to the number of cases that eventually would develop there.

January 2020

Hong Kong Skyline
Hong Kong was one of the first ports to be impacted by the Coronavirus as the cruise industry here shut down in January


  • A male resident of Washington state who recently returned from China is identified as the first infected patient in the United States.


  • Cruise lines begin canceling sailings out of China and halt port calls in that country.


  • The World Health Organization declares the novel coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.


  • The secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, declares a Public Health Emergency. “While this virus poses a serious public health threat, the risk to the American public remains low at this time, and we are working to keep this risk low,” Azar says.
  • President Donald Trump declares that non-US citizens who have been to China within the previous 14 days will not be permitted to enter the US. The ban is set to go into effect at 5 pm ET on February 2, 2020.
  • Carnival Corporation stock closes at $43.53, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd at $117.08, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings at $58.41.

February 2020

Diamond Princess cruise ship
Diamond Princess became the epicenter of the virus impact on the cruise industry in February 2020  (Photo via Princess)


  • An 80-year-old passenger who disembarked Diamond Princess in Hong Kong a week earlier tests positive for the novel coronavirus.
  • Holland America Line’s Westerdam departs Hong Kong for a 14-night cruise.


  • Diamond Princess is quarantined off the coast of Japan after multiple reports of respiratory illnesses onboard. By February 13, there would be 218 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus onboard. By February 18, the number of confirmed cases would soar to 542.


  • Westerdam is not permitted to dock in Japan, its first port call.


  • The novel coronavirus is officially named severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses, with the disease caused by the outbreak named COVID-19: CO (corona) VI (virus) D (disease) and 19 for the year 2019 when it first appeared.


  • Westerdam is finally allowed to dock in Cambodia to disembark passengers. This comes after the ship is turned away from Taiwan, the Philippines, Guam and Thailand. There are no confirmed cases on the ship.


  • Asymptomatic passengers begin disembarking Diamond Princess. Most US citizens are flown home on charter flights for a 14-day quarantine period at military bases in California and Texas.


  • Princess Cruises confirms the last of the Diamond Princess passengers have disembarked, with fewer than 500 crew members still onboard. The remainder are disembarked to charter flights or a local quarantine facility in the coming days. A special team boards the ship to begin disinfection procedures once the last crew member departs.


  • Carnival Corporation stock closes at $33.46, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd at $80.41, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings at $37.26.

March 2020

Zaandam Holland America
Holland America Lines’ Zaandam transiting the Panama Canal en route to Florida as a the outbreak spreads onboard (Photo: Panama Canal Twitter)


  • Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House coronavirus task force, announces enhanced pre- and post-cruise screening procedures for cruise passengers and guidelines for quarantining passengers who may have been exposed to the coronavirus.


  • Just a day after the Trump administration announces new screening guidelines for cruise passengers, the US State Department issues a warning that US citizens should avoid traveling on cruise ships, advising they present a higher risk of coronavirus infection.
  • The US Centers for Disease Control forces Regal Princess to idle off the coast of Florida while two crew members are tested for the virus. The ship finally docks later that evening when negative results are received.
  • Ruby Princess disembarks 2,700 passengers in Sydney, including 158 who are ill; 2,700 new passengers board the ship, bound for New Zealand.


  • Canadian citizens are advised against cruise ship travel by the country’s Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Theresa Tam.


  • The World Health Organization officially declares a pandemic. Viking Cruises suspends both river and ocean cruises through May 1, 2020, becoming the first cruise line to pause operations.


  • Princess Cruises announces a 60-day pause in operations, effective immediately.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings draws $1.55 billion from a credit line that is secured, in part, by Norwegian Epic.
Norwegian Epic cruise ship


  • President Trump declares a national emergency.
  • All remaining major cruise lines announce a “voluntary” pause in operations for at least 30 days, at the request of President Trump and in conjunction with the Cruise Lines International Association. Most lines indicate they expect to resume cruising in mid-April.
  • Carnival borrows $3 billion from its credit lines “in order to increase its cash position and preserve financial flexibility in light of current uncertainty in the global markets resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.”
  • Canada closes its ports to cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers through at least July 1, 2020.


  • The Cruise Line International Association’s “voluntary” pause in cruise operations begins just before the CDC issues a 30-day “no-sail order” for ships carrying 250 passengers or more traveling to or from the US.
  • At least 15 passengers aboard Ruby Princess are reported to have developed flu-like symptoms. All passengers are asked to fill out a questionnaire as to their own symptoms but are not told that there are suspected cases onboard.


  • Holland America Line’s Zaandam is denied permission to dock in Ushuaia, Argentina after the country closes its ports to cruise passengers. The ship attempts to return to its previous port, Punta Arenas, Chile, but is prohibited from docking there as well. This begins a week-long odyssey for the ship and her passengers.


  • Norwegian Cruise Line announces that salaried workers will face a 20 percent pay cut and a four-day workweek, effective March 30.
  • Norwegian stock hits 52-week low of $7.03 per share. Royal Caribbean stock hits a 52-week low of $19.25.


  • Ruby Princess arrives back in Sydney and is allowed to disembark all 2,700 passengers, despite at least 100 reporting flu-like symptoms, All passengers are told to self-isolate for 14 days, but many board flights home. One passenger is so ill that they are taken directly to a hospital, while two others report to a hospital for testing after feeling ill. One crew member is quarantined on board the ship.
  • The U.S. Centers for Disease Control releases a report that servers onboard Diamond Princess caused the spread of the virus to other guests.


  • It is revealed that four passengers from Ruby Princess’ most recent sailing have tested positive for the virus.


  • After it becomes clear that Zaandam will not be able to dock and disembark passengers in South America, the ship sets sail for Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, the scheduled final destination at the end of its sailing. That night, passengers hear coughing in the theater and observe crew members wearing masks for the first time while cleaning a cabin.
  • Australian health authorities admit it was a mistake to allow Ruby Princess passengers to disembark without testing or other protocols to make sure none were positive with COVID-19.


  • Zaandam passengers are confined to their cabins as the Captain reports that 13 passengers and 29 crew members are experiencing flu-like symptoms. There are no testing kits onboard, so it is impossible to determine if any of the individuals are infected.


  • Holland America Line’s Rotterdam sails to meet the Zaandam off the coast of Panama with additional crew, medical supplies and, most importantly, COVID-19 tests. At least 30 passengers and 40 crew members are now ill.
  • Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. borrows $2.2 billion to help withstand the industry shutdown.


  • Holland America indicates its intent to transfer about 800 passengers who are not reporting symptoms from Zaandam to Rotterdam when the two ships rendezvous. The Rotterdam crew is concerned that there are not enough tests to confirm if these transferred passengers are negative, and fear they may be put in harm’s way by the transfer.
  • 133 former Ruby Princess passengers are confirmed positive for and one passenger, a 70-year-old woman, dies in a Sydney hospital.


  • Holland America announces that four Zaandam passengers have died, two others have tested positive and 138 passengers onboard are ill. The two confirmed cases prevent the ship from crossing through the Panama Canal, leaving the plan to sail to Port Everglades in limbo. Passengers without symptoms begin to transfer to Rotterdam.
  • Australia issues a ban on cruise ships carrying 100 passengers or more through June 17, 2020.


  • After Panama reverses its decision to block the ships, both Zaandam and Rotterdam transit the Panama Canal overnight.
  • Zaandam’s request to airlift two critically ill passengers to Mexico is denied.


  • As the two Holland America Line ships near Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis is hesitant to allow the vessels to dock at Port Everglades. The plan to disembark sick passengers in an already ailing community doesn’t “sound good,” he says.
  • Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford writes an op-ed in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel pleading with Florida to allow the ships to dock.


  • As the count of confirmed positive cases on Zaandam and Rotterdam increases to nine and the number of crew and passengers with flu-like symptoms reaches 233, the Broward County Commission debates for five hours about whether the ships should be allowed to dock at Port Everglades.
  • President Trump tells Governor DeSantis he’d like to see a solution, and DeSantis relents, allowing both ships to dock at Port Everglades.
  • Carnival Corporation stock closes at $13.17, down from its 2020 peak of $51.90 on January 17, 2020; Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd closes at $32.17 down from the peak $135.05 in January and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings closes at $10.96, down from the $59.65 peak in January.

TIMELINE: Holland America Ship Gets Permissions To Dock

April 2020

Ruby Princess Cruise ship
Ruby Princess was blamed for the outbreak in Australia that led to a criminal probe. Princess Cruises was cleared of any wrongdoing. (Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises)


  • Royal Caribbean lays off 26 percent of its 5,000-strong US workforce and executives agree to take a 25 percent pay cut through September, while Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises Limited, forgoes his base salary during this period.


  • After a full day of negotiations between Carnival Corporation and Port Everglades representatives, a nine-page agreement spelling out how to safely disembark the passengers and transfer them home or to medical facilities is signed, allowing the Zaandam to dock around 6 pm, with Rotterdam following 30 minutes later. Four dead bodies are removed from the ship and 14 critically ill patients transferred to the hospital by ambulance. The remaining passengers disembark over the next few days.
  • Carnival Corporation & PLC obtain $6 billion in secured financing. Carnival stock bottoms at a 52-week low of $7.80 per share.


  • Australia opens a criminal investigation into Ruby Princess and why 2,700 passengers were allowed to disembark in Sydney.


  • It is revealed that Saudi Arabia’s “Sovereign Wealth Fund” purchased 43.5 million shares in Carnival Corporation & PLC.


  • Australian authorities conduct an overnight raid on Ruby Princess, seizing the ship’s “black box” data recorder and other records as part of the criminal inquiry.


  • The CDC extends the no-sail order for 100 days, ensuring no cruise activity in the US until at least July 24, 2020.



  • Carnival Corporation stock closes at $15.90, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd at $46.77, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings at $16.40.

May 2020

Canada Place in Vancouver
Canada Place in Vancouver, Canada is a popular embarkation port for Alaska cruises which typically begin in May. The port will not see any ships in 2020 thanks to the Canadian government’s prohibition on large ship calls through much of 2020.


  • Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings obtains $6 billion in additional financing, saying it can operate for at least a year, even if ships do not return to service.


  • Carnival Corporation & PLC announces layoffs or furloughs for over 3,000 shoreside employees from the Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, and Holland America Line brands.


  • MSC Cruises furloughs 128 employees in the US.


  • Australia’s cruise ship ban is extended through September 17, 2020.



  • Carnival Corporation stock closes at $15.74, Royal Caribbean Cruises at $51.87, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings at $16.07.

June 2020

Monarch Cruise ship
Monarch, a formal Royal Caribbean ship, is sidelined as Spanish line Pullmantur Cruises ceases operations.  The ship will be scrapped in July. (Photo: Pullmantur Cruises)


  • The Hurtigruten ship MS Finnmarken resumes coastal voyage itineraries in Norway.


  • CLIA member cruise lines suspend US sailings through September 15, 2020.


  • Luxury line SeaDream Yacht Club resumes cruises in Norway.


  • Pullmantur, a Spanish cruise line 49 percent owned by Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. files for bankruptcy.


  • The first ship to be sold for scrap due to the pandemic fallout, Costa Victoria, arrives at the scrapyard in Piombino, Italy.


  • More than 1,000 Zaandam passengers file a class-action lawsuit against Carnival Corporation & PLC, demanding significant changes to the way their ships operate in addition to monetary damages. The lawsuit is just one of dozens filed against major cruise operators related to the pandemic and its aftermath.


  • Hurtigruten resumes expedition ocean cruising aboard their new ship Fridjtof Nansen.


  • Carnival Corporation stock closes at $15.74, Royal Caribbean Cruises at $50.30, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings at $16.43.

Scrapped ships in our ‘Last Look’ series:

July 2020

Carnival Fantasy cruise ship
Carnival Fantasy is sold for scrap in July, just one of many older ships to be sold or scrapped during the cruise shutdown


  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. team up to create the Healthy Sail Panel, bringing together doctors, scientists, government officials and cruise industry representatives to develop recommendations on how the industry can restart.


  • Carnival Corporation & PLC CEO Arnold Donald says the company will be selling at least 13 ships across its portfolio of cruise lines.


  • Additional Hurtigruten ships, including Roald Amundsen, resume service, offering both expedition and coastal voyages.


  • Holland America Line sells four cruise shipsAmsterdam, Maasdam, Rotterdam and Veendam — to other cruise lines. Maasdam and Veendam are acquired by Seajets, a Greek ferry operator, while Amsterdam and Rotterdam are sold to British line Fred.Olsen Cruises.


  • The CDC extends the no-sail order for cruise ships through September 30, 2020.


  • AmaWaterways becomes the first major river cruise line to return to service with charter sailings aboard AmaKristina.


  • Costa Cruises announces it will sell Costa neoRomantica to European line Celestyal Cruises.


  • Carnival Cruise Line confirms media reports that Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Inspiration will be scrapped in Turkey.
  • Former Royal Caribbean and Pullmantur ships Sovereign of the Seas and Monarch of the Seas are beached at the breaker yard in Aliaga, Turkey to be scrapped.
Carnival Fantasy cruise ship
Carnival Fantasy awaiting demolition at a scrapyard in Turkey. (Photo via Carnival Cruise Line)


  • Royal Caribbean announces Muster 2.0, a virtual, individualized muster education process, using the EMUSTER technology patented in April— eliminating the traditional group muster drills.


  • Dream Cruises’ Explorer Dream sails from Taiwan, making it the first cruise to depart Asia since the global industry shut down.


  • The CDC opens a 60-day public comment period, inviting both the general public as well as cruise and health experts to weigh in on how and if cruising can return safely.


  • Within two weeks of returning to service, Hurtigruten’s Roald Amundsen reports 4 crew members have tested positive and have been removed from the ship.
  • Carnival Corporation stock closes at $13.88, Royal Caribbean Cruises at $48.71, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings at $16.34.

August 2020

MSC Grandiosa cruise ship
MSC Grandiosa prepares to depart Genoa on August 16, the first major cruise ship to sail as the industry slowly restarts in Europe (photo via MSC Cruises)


  • An additional 32 Roald Amundsen crew members are diagnosed with COVID-19.
  • UnCruise Adventures, a small-ship expedition cruise line, surprises the industry by launching what is scheduled to be a series of five Alaska sailings aboard the US-flagged Wilderness Adventurer, bypassing the need to stop at a Canadian port.


  • Hurtigruten suspends all cruises on Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen, and one other ship amid the outbreak on Roald Amundsen.
  • CLIA members and other major cruise lines extend the suspension of service through October 31, 2020.
  • MSC Cruises releases protocol for European sailings, including mask requirements and prohibiting passengers from going ashore except on ship-sponsored excursions.


  • The 2020 Alaska cruise season comes to a quick end after a Wilderness Adventurer passenger receives a positive test. UnCruise cancels the rest of the current sailing as well the four remaining voyages. The passenger later receives a negative test result.


  • Australian officials release their final report on the Ruby Princess incident. Although the ships is tied to over 850 confirmed cases and at least 28 deaths, Princess Cruises is cleared of wrongdoing.


  • MSC Cruises’ MSC Grandiosa returns to service with a multi-port Italy itinerary open only to Italian passengers. The ship sails at reduced capacity with new protocols in place.


  • Just two days into MSC Grandiosa’s first cruise, a family is refused permission to reboard after leaving the escorted ship excursion in Naples. The line says the family broke the “social bubble” designed to reduce passenger interactions with locals in port.


  • Carnival Corporation stock closes at $16.48, Royal Caribbean Cruises at $68.84, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings at $17.11.

September 2020

Carnival Fascination cruise ship
Carnival Fascination and Carnival Imagination are sold, the 3rd and 4th Carnival Fantasy-class ships to leave the fleet in 2020


  • The Australian Health Minister extends his nation’s cruise ship ban through December 17, 2020.


  • Costa Deliziosa returns to service in Italy, the first Costa Cruises ship to resume sailing.


  • Carnival Cruise Line confirms Carnival Fascination and Carnival Imagination have been sold. Imagination is bound for the scrappers in Turkey, and no buyer has been announced for Fascination.
  • Florida senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio introduce the Set Sail Safely Act, designed to create a task force and advisory committee with the goal of assisting the cruise industry’s return to service, bypassing the CDC. The proposal begins working its way through the Senate.


  • Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess and Sea Princess are sold. It is reported that Sun Princess will be going to Japan’s Peace Boat; no buyer is announced for Sea Princess.


  • As the CDC’s public comment period closes, over 12,000 individual responses have been received. Among the submissions is the 69-page report from Royal Caribbean Group’s and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ Healthy Sail Panel.


  • The CDC extends the no-sail order for an additional month, setting it to expire October 31, 2020. Media reports suggest the CDC wanted to extend the order into 2021, but the White House intervened and pushed for a shorter extension.


  • Carnival Corporation stock closes at $15.18, Royal Caribbean Group at $64.73, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings at $17.11.

October 2020

 virus testing for passengers
CLIA member lines commit to 100% virus testing for passengers and crew before every sailing when cruising resumes


  • Carnival Cruise Line cancels all sailings through December 2020, with the exception of ships scheduled to depart from Miami and Port Canaveral, which the line continues to hope might sail before the end of the year.


  • US Representative Jennifer González Colón of Puerto Rico introduces companion legislation to Rubio and Scott’s Set Sail Safely Act in the House of Representatives.



  • CLIA announces that its member lines will require 100 percent testing of passengers and crew before every sailing when cruises resume.


  • Royal Caribbean announces it will resume cruises from Singapore in December 2020 aboard Quantum of the Seas.


  • Cruise industry executives and government health officials meet with Vice President Pence to discuss the restart of cruise service in the US. Pence indicates that President Trump’s administration shares the industry’s goal of restarting service as soon as it is safe to do so, saying he will bring the Healthy Sail Panel’s recommendations to the Coronavirus Task Force.


  • Carnival Cruise Line cancels Miami and Port Canaveral departures through November 2020, but continue to hope six ships might sail from the two ports in December of 2020.


  • MSC Magnifica becomes the second MSC Cruises ship to resume cruising in Europe, sailing a 10-night cruise from Genoa, with port calls in Italy, Malta and Greece.


  • US Representative for Alaska, Don Young, proposes rule changes that would permit cruises to Alaska in 2021, even if Canada’s ports remained closed to cruise traffic. Under the 100-year old maritime law, foreign-flag ships must stop at a foreign port to legally call in Alaska.


  • Royal Caribbean Group releases third-quarter earnings and posts a $1.2 billion loss. CEO Richard Fain highlights the progress made with the CDC and European brand TUI Cruises. The company estimates that it is now burning between $250 million to $290 million per month during the shutdown.
  • Canada extends its cruise ship travel ban from October 31 to February 28. This is more of a precaution than anything as there are no Canada/New England sailings in 2020 and the Alaska season runs April through September.
  • Respecting Germany’s newly imposed lockdown, Carnival Corporation’s German-brand AIDA Cruises decides to pause sailings through November 30. The one cruise ship that is sailing for the brand will return to Rome on October 31.
  • The CDC indicates their No Sail order will expire October 31 and not be renewed. Instead, the agency releases a 40-page plan outlining the necessary steps for cruise lines to be issued a COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate for each ship. Due to the complexity of the requirements, it was unclear if cruises would be able to resume in 2020.
  • It is reported that Carnival Fascination has been sold to an undisclosed buyer in Asia for use as an “accommodation ship,” and the vessel is enroute to Singapore for a technical stop. The Fascination was one of four Fantasy-class ships sold by Carnival Cruise Line this year, and of the tree, is the only one not being scrapped.

November 2020

Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line was the first to cancel the remainder of the 2020 cruise season following the new CDC framework issued in late October


  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings cancels all North American sailings on Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises through December 31, 2020.
  • Royal Caribbean Group cancels all North American sailings through December 31, 2020 for Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Azamara.
  • MSC Cruises cancels all North American sailings through December 31, 2020.
  • Carnival Cruise Line cancels all cruises through December 31, 2020.


  • As COVID-19 cases surge in Europe, MSC Cruises suspends Mediterranean sailings on MSC Magnifica through December 20, 2020 and TUI Cruises suspends Mein Schiff 6 cruises in Greece through November


  • Dream Cruises resumes 2- and 3-night cruises to nowhere from Singapore aboard World Dream, promising to take a regular ‘stay-cation’ and turn it into a ‘super sea-cation.’ Stringent health measures and distancing requirements will be in place.
  • Costa Cruises cancels sailings on the Costa Deliziosa through December 25, 2020.


  • Caribbean cruising returns as SeaDream Yacht Club’s SeaDream I sails on a 7 night cruise from Barcelona. The ship immediately comes under criticism on social media after a cruise journalist posts photos of a mask-less crew at embarkation.


  • Cruise line stocks surge with news from Pfizer of a successful COVID-19 vaccine trial. Carnival Corporation was up 39.29 percent, Royal Caribbean Group up 28.61 percent and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings up 26.83 percent.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings reports a third quarter loss of $677 million and advises that booking volumes “remain below historical levels,” but that they are still seeing strong demand for future cruises, particularly when it comes to those set to operate during the second half of 2021.


  • Sea Dream Yacht Club cancels the remainder of SeaDream I‘s current Caribbean cruise and the next sailing after 5 passengers onboard test positive for COVID-19. Passengers posted photos to social media of both passengers and crew not wearing masks. Because the ship sailed from Barbados, the ship was not required to adhere to CDC guidelines.


  • Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy announces that Carnival Breeze and Carnival Horizon, sailing from Port Canaveral and PortMiami, respectively, will likely be the first ships to return to service once cruises resume in 2021.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line announces a new docuseries that will give the public a front-row seat as the line returns to service. EMBARK – The Series will debut at http://www.ncl.com/embark on November 19, 2020, with an episode highlighting Broadway-caliber entertainment with a reunion of “Choir of Man” cast members at London’s West End Garrick Theatre.


  • Carnival Corporation announces a $1.5 Billion “at the market” equity offering as the cruise company burns through more than $530 Million a month as cruises in most of the world remain paused.
  • In the wake of Sea Dream Cruises’ botched restart of Caribbean sailings out of Barbados, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, and Representative Doris Matsui, a Democrat from California, wrote to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield to encourage him to reinstate the No Sail Order for cruise ships from U.S. ports that were rescinded in late October. The lawmakers have given the CDC until November 27, 2020 to respond.


  • Royal Caribbean reports that over 100,000 people have volunteered to participate in test sailings as required under the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order. Royal Caribbean’s trial cruises are expected to be short voyages to the line’s private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay, with the goal of testing out new health and safety protocols.
  • Bahamas Paradise Cruises has reportedly sold former Carnival Cruise Line ship Grand Celebration, with the vessel headed to the scrapyard in Alang, India. The cruise line has refused to confirm the sale.
  • Magellan, the former Carnival Cruise Line Holiday, which was put up for sale when Cruise & Maritime Voyages entered bankruptcy in July, was purchased at auction for $3 million by Greek ferry operator, SeaJets. Magellan marks the fourth cruise ship the ferry operator has purchased in recent months;  it appears if SeaJets owner Marios Iliopoulos is making a play to expand into the cruise industry.


  • SeaDream Yacht Club made the decision to cancel the remaining 2020 Caribbean voyages after seven guests and two crew members tested positive on its first Caribbean sailing. The line said it will continue to work on enhanced measures to protect passengers and crew.


  • Carnival Cruise Line announces that they are canceling all cruises through January 31, 2021. Additionally, voyages from Baltimore, Charleston, Jacksonville, Long Beach, Mobile, New Orleans, and San Diego are canceled through February 28th, and Carnival Legend sailings out of Tampa are canceled through March 26.


  • The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) releases their report on the cruise industry’s impact on the U.S. economy for 2019. Cruising generated $55.5 billion in economic activity in the U.S., a 5.3 percent increase from 2018. And over 13.7 million passengers set sail on a cruise from U.S. ports in 2019, up almost 8 percent from 2018 and up 26 percent from five years ago.


  • Princess Cruises cancels all cruises through March 31, 2021, stating that this will allow it to spend preparing to meet rigorous new CDC health and safety requirements. The line also cancels voyages longer than seven days sailing in and out of United States ports through November 1, 2021.
  • Holland America Line cancels all cruises through March 31, 2021, and states that it is continuing to work on developing plans to meet the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order requirements. The line also announces the cancellation of a number of longer voyages, including those that are 8+ nights that call at a U.S. port through November 1, 2021.


  • The CDC raises the Cruise Ship Travel Warning to Level 4, or Very High, saying “For most travelers, cruise ship travel is voluntary and should be rescheduled for a future date.” It’s unclear what prompted the change in warning levels, as no cruise ships are currently scheduled to return to service from U.S. ports


  • Carnival Horizon, one of the first Carnival Cruise Line ships expected to return to service, makes her return to Miami, after boarding her crew compliment in St. Maarten. The crew will begin work to comply with the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order and prepare for her test sailing, yet to be scheduled.
  • Disney Cruise Line cancels cruises through January 31, 2021.


  • Norwegian Cruise Line extends its’ “Peace of Mind” booking policy for bookings made through December 31, 2020 for sailings through October 31, 2021. The policy allows booked guests to cancel their cruise up to 15-days in advance of embarkation.
  • MSC Cruises receives approval to begin sailing from Japan, the first international line to receive the consent from maritime classification society, ClassNK. Bookings for MSC Bellissima’s  w cruises from Yokamama in April, May and June 2021 will open in December. Cruises will be limited to local residents.


  • Disney Wonder returns to Port Canaveral and becomes the first cruise ship to dock long term at the port since March. The ship will begin work to comply with the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order.

December 2020

Celebrity Edge cruise ship
Celebrity Edge returns to Port Everglades Tuesday December 1, 2020


  • Quantum of the Seas sails from Singapore, officially becoming the first Royal Caribbean ship to sail in nearly 9 months.
  • Celebrity Edge returns to Port Everglades to begin preparations to return to cruising, the first Celebrity Cruises ship to do so.


  • Norwegian Cruise Line cancels all sailings in January and February 2021.
  • Carnival Horizon fails to achieve an “all clear” from the CDC related to plans for crew repatriation under the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order process, potentially delaying the ship’s return to service.
  • Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises cancel all cruises through February 28, 2021.


  • Carnival Cruise Line cancels all cruises through February 28, 2021 and postpones the first sailing of the Gras until April 24, 2021.
  • MSC Cruises cancels all cruises from the US through February 28, 2021.


  • After the Italian government announced severe restrictions on citizen movement in late December and early January, MSC Cruises pauses MSC Grandiosa sailings in the Mediterranean from December 20, 2020 through January 9, 2021 and delays MSC Magnifica‘s return to service from December 18, 2020 to January 15, 2021.


  • Disney Cruise Line cancels all cruises through February 28, 2021.


  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings announces it will install a “virus neutralizing” air purification system across the 28 ships of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.  AtmosAir Solutions calls its patented air filtration system technology an “all-natural solution with no harmful chemicals, radiation or by-products.”


  • An 83-year old passenger aboard Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas, on a 4 day cruise to nowhere out of Singapore, tests positive for COVID-19, resulting in the ship’s immediate return to port. All passengers were confined to their staterooms while contract tracing was completed onboard to determine who the passenger had close interactions with.
  • An investigative report by the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reveals that cruisers are increasingly turning to the Florida Attorney General and Better Business Bureau to obtain refunds for cancelled cruises, especially from Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises.


  • Multiple shoreside COVID-19 tests for the Quantum of the Seas passenger return a negative result. Passengers disembark, the crew is tested and the ship undergoes a thorough cleaning prior to embarking passengers for the next sailing.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio tells travel agents the cruise line exploring the legality of requiring a COVID-19 vaccine for all future passengers.


  • Virgin Voyages pushes the inaugural cruise for Scarlet Lady from January 3 to May 9, 2021 and delays the debut of Valiant Lady from May to November 14, 2021.


  • Royal Caribbean announces Empress of the Seas and Majesty of the Seas have been sold and will leave the fleet later this month. The ships were sold to an undisclosed buyer in the Asia-Pacific region.


  • Royal Caribbean Group announces the second phase of its RCL Cares program, offering up to $40 million in interest-free loans to travel agents aimed to help them keep their business afloat. Loans are capped at $250,000 each and must be paid back within three years.


  • Norwegian Cruise Line cancels the remaining March 2021 sailings on Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Escape, and Norwegian Joy, meaning Norwegian will not return to cruising before April 1, 2021.

January 2021

azamara quest Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean Group is selling Azamara Quest and her two sister ships to private equity firm Sycamore Partners for $202 million. (Photo courtesy of Azamara)


  • Carnival Cruise Line cancels all sailings through March 31, 2021.
  • Princess Cruises cancels all voyages through May 14, 2021.
  • Holland America Line cancels all cruises through April 30, 2021.  Additionally. some Alaska sailings are cancelled as far ahead as early June;  Mediterranean sailings through early June, and Canada/New England cruises through August.
  • The MS Marco Polo. a legendary ship that launched in 1965, is heading for the scrapyard in India. Most recently sailing for Cruise & Maritime Voyages, which dissolved in 2020 in the midst of the cruise industry shutdown, the ship once cruised for Norwegian Cruise Line-owned Orient Lines.


  • Carnival Corporation announced a $2.2 Billion loss for the fourth quarter of 2020 as most of its cruise ships remain idle and amid continued uncertainty as to when operations can resume.


  • Grand Cayman announces that it does not expect to welcome cruise ships back to the island before 2022. “Cruise is not on our radar at all at this stage,” Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin said. “We would have to be satisfied that the world was in a very different place in terms of safety-related to COVID-19 before we would even consider having the cruise ships come here.


  • Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises cancel all sailings through April 2021.
  • Royal Caribbean Group announces that it’s Azamara cruise brand will be sold to private-equity firm Sycamore Partners in a $201 million cash transaction. The firm will acquire the three-ship fleet and all associated intellectual property.


  • UK-based Saga Cruises becomes the first cruise line to require a COVID-19 vaccine for all passengers once cruising resumes. Saga says passengers must have received both vaccine doses at least 14 days prior to boarding their ship. “The majority of our guests fall into the at-risk age bracket and our priority is their safety and well-being,” the line said in a statement.


  • Princess Cruises announces they have sold the Pacific Princess to an undisclosed buyer. It’s the fourth Princess ship to be sold since the cruise industry shutdown in March 2020. It was ultimately revealed the ship was acquired by Sycamore Partners, new owners of Azamara, and was rechristened the Azamara Onward, becoming the third ship in the Azamara fleet, all former Renaissance Cruises R-Ships.

February 2021

vaccine for COVID virus
In February 2021, multiple cruise lines began announcing vaccine requirements for both crew and passengers when cruising resumes


  • U.S. River lines American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines announce that they will be requiring all passengers and crew to be vaccinated starting July 1.


  • The Mexican port of Cozumel began pitching itself as a home port option for Caribbean-based cruise ships unable to resume sailing from the U.S. While no major cruise ships ultimately home-ported in Cozumel, the idea of sailing from alternative ports in the Caribbean would come to fruition later in the year.


  • Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises announce that all crew members will be vaccinated once cruises resume. The three lines, owned by Royal Caribbean Group, join Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings in requiring 100% vaccination for crew.


  • Norwegian Cruise Line cancels sailings through May 31.


  • Luxury line Crystal Cruises announces that it will require all guests to be vaccinated at least 14 days prior to sailing once the line resumes cruises.


  • Carnival Cruise Line cancels all sailings through May 31 and postones, once again, the debut of their new flagship, Mardi Gras.
  • Princess Cruises and Holland America Line cancel all cruises scheduled to depart from or sail to Canada in 2021, as Canada’s cruise ports remain closed to virtually all cruise ship traffic.

March 2021

Adventure of the Seas out of Nassau
Royal Caribbean announced Adventure of the Seas was being deployed to Nassau in an end-run around the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order that prevented shios from sailing from U.S. ports (Photo courtesy of Nassau Cruise Port)


  • Fans of Guy’s Burger Joint on Carnival Cruise Line who have gone nearly a year without their fix of Donkey Sauce get thrown a lifeline when the popular TV chef opens Guy’s Flavortown Kitchen, a chain of delivery-only restaurants serving his famous burgers and other creations.


  • Two Alaskan senators launch a bill to save the 2021 Alaska cruise season. The Alaska Tourism Recovery Act would, among other provisions, allow cruise ships to sail to Alaska from a U.S. port without stopping in Canada, overcoming the obstacle of the Passenger Vessel Services Act as Canada’s cruise ports remain closed to most cruise ship traffic.


  • Holland America Line and Princess Cruises cancel additional sailings through June 30.  Just days later, Princess would also cancel all Alaska sailings through June 30.


  • Crystal Cruises announces Crystal Serenity will sail from Nassau beginning July 3, the first ship scheduled to sail from a North American port since the shutdown began.


  • American Cruise Lines resumes voyages with its ship American Independence on a seven-night sailing on the southeast coast.


  • The one year anniversary of the golabal cruise industry’s “30 day pause” passes, with no ships having sailed from a North American port in 365 days.


  • American Queen Steamboat Company resumes sailings with the first of two private charter cruises aboard American Duchess on the Mississippi River.


  • Virgin Voyages announces that all of its passengers and crew will be required to be vaccinated when it begins sailing.


  • Royal Caribbean announces Adventure of the Seas will home port in Nassau beginning in June, betting U.S. passengers who are eager to cruise will willing to make the quick flight from Florida to the Bahamas.
  • Celebrity Cruises will base the Celebrity Millennium in St. Maarten starting June 5.
  • Federal Maritime Commissioner Louis E. Sola calls for a vaccine mandate for cruise passengers as a ‘key element’ of the cruise industry restart.


  • Royal Caribbean announces Vision of the Seas will cruise from Bermuda beginning in June. The line will cancel the deployment less than two months later as the likelihood of cruising from the U.S. grows “greater each day.”


  • The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) calls on the CDC to allow a phased resumption of cruising from U.S. ports by July 1, amid mounting pressure from the industry to resume sailings from the U.S.


  • Carnival Cruise Line promises loyal cruisers that it won’t leave its’ iconic U.S. home ports, as other lines rush to deploy ships from nearly island destinations.

April 2021

CDC headquarters guidance
CDC guidance issued in April 2021 laid the groundwork for cruises to resume starting in June (Photo courtesy of CDC)


  • The CDC finally issues “phase 2” guidance for the return of cruising from U.S. ports, a convoluted document that mandates multiple gangways, masks, and contracts with hospitals and housing facilities. The cruise industry and cruise fans alike were dismayed by high bar the cruise industry was being asked to meet, with much more stringent requirements than were put in place for airlines, hotels and other travel suppliers. Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald calls the guidelines “almost unworkable,” and says moving ships from the U.S. to international home ports might be necessary if the their lines aren’t allowed to sail from the U.S. soon.


  • The CDC, apparently reacting to Carnival Corporation’s threat to pull ships from the U.S., strikes, for the first time, an optimistic tone, saying the “CDC is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising following the phased approach outlined in the conditional sail order. This goal aligns with the desire to resume passenger operations in the United States expressed by many major cruise ship operators and travelers; hopefully by mid-summer with restricted revenue sailings.”
  • Norwegian Cruise Line announces that all crew and passengers will be required to have the COVID-19 vaccine through at least October 31, 2021. There will be no exceptions for kids, meaning that those who are too young to receive the vaccine will not be able to sail.


  • Carnival Cruise Line cancels all sailings through June 30.


  • Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody files a lawsuit against the CDC, demanding that the agency lift its Conditional Sailing Order and allow ships to sail from U.S. ports.
  • From the ‘Silver Linings’ files, at least five cruise ships from Royal Caribbean and Carnival Corporation that were idling empty in the waters of the Caribbean were dispatched to the island of St. Vincents to evacuate locals and visitors ahead of an imminent, life-threatening eruption of the La Soufriere volcano. If the cruise industry were operating normally, empty ships would not have been available to heed the call.


  • The CDC revises phase 2 Conditional Sailing Order guidance that said arriving and departing cruise ship passengers may not occupy to the same space in a cruise terminal during “a 12 hour period” to read “to the extent practicable.” This minor change in language is viewed very optimistically as it continues the trend of the CDC seemingly listening to industry feedback and working to put practical, actional guidelines in place.


  • Senators from Florida and Alaska, two states most impacted by the cruise industry shutdown, introduce the CRUISE Act, a bill designed to over-rule the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order and return cruise ships to U.S. ports by July. The bill fails to advance in the Senate 10 days later.


  • In a bid to keep cruises from the U.S. cancelled, Congresswoman Doris Matsui and Senator Richard Blumenthal write to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, imploring her to listen to “scientists and health and safety experts over the industry and its profit-driven executives” and continue implementation of the Conditional Sailing Order to ensure cruise ships with “unsafe conditions” do not operate.


  • Less than two months before cruises from Nassau are set to resume, the CDC raises its’ warning level for the Bahamas, advising U.S. citizens to avoid traveling to the island nation. The President of the Bahamas Hotel and Tourism Association says “this is a wake-up call” which needs to be seen as “a major warning” and fears there could be a negative impact on tourism.


  • Alaska joins Florida’s lawsuit against the CDC.


  • Florida files a motion in a district court in Tampa, asking for an immediate injunction that would rescind the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order.


  • The CDC releases new guidance and indicates that cruising from U.S. ports could resume in July.


  • American Cruise Lines’ 175-passenger, U.S. flagged American Constitution begins sailing 11 night cruises in the Chesapeake Bay, with port calls in Washington, D.C.

May 2021

radiance of the seas alaska
The 2021 Alaska cruise season was saved when President Joseph R. Biden signed the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act into law on May 24, 2021, allowing cruises to sail round trip from Seattle without a stop at a Canadian resport, which remain closed to most cruise ships.  (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)


  • MSC Seaside resumes cruises in the Mediterranean.


  • The CDC releases Phase 2B and 3 of its Conditional Sailing Order, outlining the two ways that cruise ships can restart cruising from United States homeports.


  • The state of Texas joins Florida and Alaska in their lawsuit against the CDC and its Conditional Sailing Order.


  • Norwegian Cruise Line threatens to leave their Florida home ports if the state prevents the line from asking passengers for proof of vaccination.


  • Carnival Cruise Line cancels most cruises through July 30. The line hopes to resume sailing in July on Carnival Breeze, Carnival Vista, and Carnival Horizon.  If a shortened Alaska season is able to sail, Carnival Miracle has been tapped to replace Carnival Freedom from Seattle.


  • The U.S. Senate passes the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act, which overrides the Passenger Vessel Services act and allows cruises to sail to Alaska from a U.S. port without making a stop at a foreign port, among other provisions. The passage fuels hope that Alaska can have at least a partial 2021 cruising season.


  • Florida loses its bid for an injunction against the CDC, and a judge tells the state and the agency to work on a resolution through mandatory mediation with a June 1 deadline.


  • MSC Cruises becomes the first line to resume voyages from the UK, with MSC Virtuosa departing Southampton for a four-night sailing.
  • The House of Representatives passes the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act.
  • Three Carnival Corporation-owned cruise lines announce a shortened Alaska cruise season, with Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Line each set to sail one ship roundtrip from Seattle beginning in late July, taking advantage of the provisions in the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act. These 2021 itineraries may be the only opportunity U.S. citizens with a DUI or other criminal conviction will ever have to sail to Alaska, bypassing Canada’s strict entry requirements.


  • President Biden signs the Alaska Tourism Recovery Act bill into law.


  • The CDC gives Royal Caribbean International permission to begin test cruises from Miami in late June.


  • R0yal Caribbean receives CDC approval for its first simulated voyage, a step required under the Conditional Sailing Order. The cruise, on Freedom of the Seas, will sail June 20 with Royal Caribbean Group employees as passengers.


  • Celebrity Cruises CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo tweets “Someday is here” as the cruise line receives CDC approval for Celebrity Edge to begin sailing June 26 from Port Everglades.

June 2021

celebrity edge cruise ship
Celebrity Edge became the first ship to sail a revenue cruise from a U.S. port in more than 16 months when it cruise from Port Everglades June 26, 2021.


  • Disney Cruise Line receives approval from the CDC to begin test sailings as early as the end of the month.


  • Carnival Cruise Line announces Carnival Vista will sail from Galveston June 3, marking the lines’ return to service.


  • Royal Caribbean Group CEO says unvaccinated cruisers should expect to see higher costs and more restrictions onboard versus vaccinated passengers.


  • Adventure of the Seas sets sail from Nassau, Bahamas, marking the first time a Royal Caribbean ship departed on a cruise from a North American home port in over a year.


  • Viking Orion begins sailings from Bermuda, marking the first time U.S. passengers could take a cruise with the line since March 2020.


  • Royal Caribbean announces that Odysssey of the Seas restart from Port Everglades will be pushed to July 31 after eight crew members test positive for COVID-19 when the ship arrived in Florida.


  • MSC Cruises ann0unces it will return to service with MSC Meraviglia sailing from Miami August 2 and MSC Divina from Port Canaveral starting September 16.


  • Celebrity Cruises’ new ship Celebrity Apex sets sail on her inaugural voyage from Athens, Greece.


  • Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas sets sail on her simulated voyage from Miami, marking the first time a cruise ship has departed a U.S. port with passengers in over 450 days.


  • Celebrity Edge sets sail on a seven-night cruise from Fort Lauderdale, making it the first revenue cruise to depart from the U.S. in over 15 months.


  • Viking Sky begins sailings around Iceland from the country’s capital of Reykjavík.


  • Royal Caribbean says in addition to additional testing requirements and expenses, unvaccinated cruisers sailing from Florida must purchase travel insurance.

July 2021

carnival breeze vista return galveston april 2021
The Carnival Vista returns to the Port of Galveston on Sunday, May 2, 2021 with an escort by the Bay Houston Towing Company Tugboat Wesley A. and a Galveston/Texas City Pilot boat. The ship resumed revenue service July 3, 2021. (Photos by Robert Mihovil, courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)


  • Carnival Vista departs Galveston, Texas, marking Carnival Cruise Line’s return to cruising.
  • Crystal Serenity departs Nassau, Bahamas, marking Crystal’s return to sailing.
  • Celebrity Silhouette departs Southampton, England for a series of coastal sailings open to British passengers only.


  • Carnival Horizon departs Miami for a six-night western Caribbean cruise, marking Carnival’s resumption of sailings from Florida.


  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings sues the state of Florida over its ban on businesses requiring proof of vaccination.


  • Canada announces it plans to lift its ban on cruise ships on November 1, 2021 instead of February 28, 2022. This means little, though, as the Canada/New England and Alaska cruising seasons are over or nearly over by November anyway.


  • Disney Dream sets sail on a two-night test cruise from Port Canaveral, Florida.


  • Serenade of the Seas departs Seattle and becomes the first large cruise ship bound for Alaska since 2019.


  • Norwegian Jade sets sail from Athens, Greece, becoming Norwegian Cruise Line’s first vessel to resume service.


  • Carnival Cruise Line’s much-anticipated ship Mardi Gras sets sail on her seven-night maiden voyage from Port Canaveral, Florida.

August 2021

norwegian gem portmiami new terminal
Norwegian Gem docked at the line’s new terminal at PortMiami (Photo courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line)


  • MSC Cruises resumes operations in the U.S., with MSC Meraviglia departing on a four-night cruise to the Bahamas from PortMiami.


  • The United States Virgin Islands bans cruise ships unless all passengers 12 and older are vaccinated, in light of a rise in COVID-19 cases and a low number of vaccinated residents.


  • A Florida judge grants a preliminary injunction to Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, granting them the right to require vaccinations on cruises from Florida.


  • MSC Cruises’ new flagship MSC Seashore departs on her maiden voyage in the Mediterranean.


  • Disney Cruise Line resumes sailings in the U.S., with Disney Dream departing on a four-night voyage from Port Canaveral.


  • It is revealed that Carnival Vista has 26 crew members and 1 passenger onboard that are positive for COVID-19. The ship implements its COVID protocols and continues sailing, with no more people testing positive.


  • Norwegian Gem sets sail from Norwegian Cruise Line’s new terminal at PortMiami, marking the line’s first ship to resume voyages from Florida.


  • Norwegian Cruise Line extends its vaccination requirement through at least December 31, 2021.


  • The Bahamas announces that cruise ships can only dock at any of its ports (including cruise line private islands) if all cruise passengers 12 and older are vaccinated. Those who are 12 and older that have medical conditions that prevent them from being vaccinated are also allowed.


  • Carnival Panorama sets sail from Long Beach, becoming the first cruise ship to sail from California since the industry shutdown in early 2020.


  • Royal Caribbean’s mega-ship Oasis of the Seas departs on a six-night test cruise from Bayonne, New Jersey.

September 2021


  • The port of Santa Barbara, California announces it will be closed to cruise ships through March 2022.


  • Carnival Cruise Line pushes the return of several ships from Fall 2021 into 2022. The cruise line also says pier-side testing will be available at all embarkation ports to provide another option for passengers who are having difficulty obtaining a test with 72 hours of sailing.
  • Disney Cruise Line will require pier-side testing for all passengers starting September 13.

This timeline was originally published in spring 2021, and will continue to be updated as events unfold.

timeline cruise industry shutdown 2020

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