Where Have All The Cruise Ships Gone?

Since the cruise industry shut down, hundreds of ships have gone into storage around the world. They are now almost all in “warm layup”, anchored close to major ports where they can stay well supplied. 

In the Beginning

You may have seen the news stories of major cruise lines struggling to repatriate crew members around the world. Basically, as more and more countries closed their borders, it became impossible for cruise lines to send their crew home by air.

Instead, most decided to use the ships themselves to take their crew back to their families.

This meant that some of the biggest seafaring nations had loads of ships waiting for health authorities to give them clearance. I remember a few months back when there were countless ships at anchor in Manila Bay, all waiting for clearance to land their crew ashore.

Once the majority of the crew got home, the priority shifted to the ships themselves. They needed to be kept somewhere safe to wait for the industry to restart.

Laying Up

When ships are stored for a period of time, we call it “Laying Up”. 

You may have heard the terms hot layup and cold layup before. They they just refer to the different levels of shutdown involved. 

As a blunt rule of thumb, the longer you wish to layup, the more systems you should deactivate, and the colder the layup becomes. The only downside is that the more you deactivate, the longer it will take to get the ship going again.

On top of that, the colder the layup, the less able the ship is to look after itself in terms of safety, security and maintenance.

Most cruise ships have actually opted for a pretty warm version of a layup. They have shut down what they can, mainly guest services and hotel functions, but they have kept a lot of equipment running, especially marine related gear. This helps with maintenance and means that it shouldn’t take too long to get them properly going again.

Safe Manning Levels

As cruise ships are still operational vessels, they still have crew onboard. They need to meet the requirements of their minimum safe manning documents. These are certificates issued by a flag state that list the bare minimum crew for a vessel to be deemed seaworthy.

Normally cruise lines run far in excess of their minimum safe manning documents. It’s usually more of an issue for cargo ships that try to keep crewing costs to a minimum. Now though, these documents are giving cruise lines a minimum level of crew that is needed as well.

Where to Dock

Ideally, ships just dock in a port where they can still get all their supplies. They still need things like:

  • Fuel for the engines.
  • Food and water for the crew.
  • Spares for machinery.
  • Tools and equipment for maintenance.

Unfortunately, the costs involved in docking in a port are enormous. To get around that, most cruise ships have chosen to anchor in close to major ports instead.


On the day I checked, the biggest fleet seemed to be in the Bahamas, around 100 miles to the east of Miami.

At anchor were the Celebrity Silhouette; Celebrity Edge; Celebrity Reflection; and Celebrity Equinox. The Carnival Liberty; the Carnival Breeze; Carnival Elation; the Carnival Pride; Carnival Vista; the Carnival Glory; Carnival Sunshine; Carnival Horizon; and Carnival Freedom. The Navigator of the Seas; and the Symphony of the Seas. 

There were plenty of others around as well, moving to and from different ports in the region.


In Asia, there was another cluster outside of Singapore.

The Sea Princess; Ruby Princess; Crown Princess; Sapphire Princess; Golden Princess; Sun Princess; Majestic Princess; and the Diamond Princess. The Costa Venezia; Costa Serena; and the Costa Atlantica. The Carnival Splendour. The Quantum of the Seas; Ovation of the Seas; and Radiance of the Seas. The Celebrity Solstice and the Pacific Explorer.

A couple of others were in Singapore itself taking on supplies, before returning to the anchorage and rejoining the others.


In Europe, there was a load off the south coast of the UK.

The Queen Mary 2; Queen Victoria; and Queen Elizabeth. The Brittania; Ventura; Azura; and Aurora. The Marella Discovery; Marella Explorer; and the Marella Explorer 2. The Allure of the Seas; the Anthem of the Seas; and the Jewel of the Seas.

The Amsterdam; Nieuw Statendam; the Zaandam; the Emerald Princess and the World dream were all anchored off the coast of Holland.

The list goes on of course, but you’re getting the idea now. Huge clusters of ships around the world, just waiting for the time they can start up again.

They have all located themselves close to, if not actually inside, big commercial ports where they can get all the supplies they need to keep themselves running.

Are they still Moving?

If you watch closely, you’ll probably see ships heading into different ports to load up on supplies or to change crew.

Occasionally, they do steam out to sea every now and then as well. They do that for a variety of reasons. Maybe they are looking for deep ocean water to flush through their ballast tanks, or maybe they just want to run the engines under load.

It can also be to do with the weather. If the forecast shows storms or strong winds are due, the captain will want to keep the ship safe from the worst of it. They’ll either just move to a safer distance from land, but if it’s particularly bad they may steam well away to avoid it entirely.

How you can track them

If you want to stay up to date with the location of different ships, it’s quite easy. Specialist websites use the ship’s AIS to get their positions.

AIS is a system that automatically broadcasts a ship’s identity and location to help with traffic management.

Sites like marinetraffic.com and vesselfinder.com give you a nice map to see all their positions.