The European cruise is the first to open up substantially as European nations begin to get a hold on the coronavirus pandemic.
European cruise lines are benefitting from Europe’s efforts to bring the coronavirus pandemic under control, allowing key countries essential to the regional cruise market to ease travel restrictions.
Most importantly, Italy and Germany have given permission to Europe’s four biggest cruise lines to resume limited cruise operations. The Italian cruise lines MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises, and the German cruise lines AIDA and TUI are now heading back to sea.
Each cruise line has developed a comprehensive health plan designed to protect passengers, crew, and the public, from the pandemic, and each will be resuming operations in a limited capacity initially, with just two ships each.
The additional of any other cruise ships will be subject to approval from authorities.
Although these represent baby steps in terms of what’s needed to get the cruise industry back up and running, it’s a helpful sign amid ongoing spread of the virus in the United States, forcing all US-based cruise lines to cancel all cruises for a further several weeks until at least the end of October.
AIDA was the first cruise line to announce its plans to resume operations, although those initial plans were delayed and altered due to regulatory approvals, it is now all set to cast off on September 6th with AIDAperla and AIDAbella from Kiel and Hamburg.
The first cruises to the Norwegian Fjords will depart with the AIDAperla out of Hamburg on September 12, 19, and 26. AIDA Cruises has cancelled all other voyages until September 30th, but said it hopes to gradually expand operations from October.
Fellow German cruise line TUI was one of the first to actually resume cruises, with Mein Schiff 2 sailing out of Hamburg at the end of July. TUI is cruising with reduced capacity and is ensuring social distancing onboard, furthermore, the cruises are ‘blue cruises’ or cruises to nowhere.
The ship won’t be making any port calls, but will sail scenic itineraries in the North Sea and along the Baltic coast. The cruise line has indicated it hopes to offer more dynamic cruise options as the situation improves, and is already offering week-long cruises from the end of August on its website.
Costa Cruises is putting Costa Diadema and Costa Deliziosa back into service next month, with cruises resuming on September 6th. Costa Deliziosa will cruise weekly voyages from Trieste, while Costa Diadema will resume cruising on September 19th, 2020, with weekly itineraries from Genoa.
The cruises will initially only be available for booking to Italian residents and will only visit Italian ports. The cruise line had originally planned to operate seven-day cruises in the Western Mediterranean to Greece and Malta.
“We are extremely excited that we will be able to cruise again soon and we want to thank the Italian Government and all the authorities for their constant availability and support,” said Michael Thamm, Group CEO Costa Group and Carnival Asia.
“The cruise industry and Costa specifically create significant value to the economy and to the destinations we visit,” he added. “The gradual restart of our operations will give relief to the local economies in port communities and to the whole ecosystem of almost 5,000 suppliers and business partners, and over 7,500 travel agents, in Italy, who have been suffering from the pause of our activities.”
The fellow Italian cruise line MSC Cruises, the only one of the four that is privately-owned, has also received approval to resume operations with two cruise ships.
MSC Grandiosa, the cruise line’s newest and largest ship, will cruise from Genoa on August 15th on a series of 7-night itineraries visiting Civitavecchia/Rome, Naples, Palermo, and Valetta.
MSC Magnifica will begin 7-night cruises from August 29th from the Italian ports of Bari and Trieste calling at the Greek ports of Corfu, Katakolon, and Piraeus in the eastern Mediterranean.
The cruise line has developed a detailed new health plan for passengers and crew, which includes universal COVID-19 testing and shore excursions that limit interaction with members of the public ashore.
“During the pause in our operations we focused on developing a comprehensive operating protocol that builds upon already stringent health and safety measures that have long been in place on board our ships,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, Executive Chairman, MSC Cruises.
“We have worked closely with the relevant EU-level, national health and other authorities from the countries that MSC Grandiosa and MSC Magnifica will call along their Mediterranean itineraries to develop a comprehensive set of procedures designed to protect the health and safety of all passengers on board our ships as well as ashore to ensure that local communities feel comfortable welcoming our guests,” he added.
European cruise industry a test case
The ability of the European cruise industry to resume operations safely will provide a major boost to the global market, and will also provide other cruise lines with important information about how to protect passengers, their crew and the public.
Other cruise lines that have tried to resume cruises have not been so lucky, including SeaDream and Hurtigurten, both of which suffered onboard outbreaks of COVID-19 and had to suspend operations once more to find the holes in their health plans.
All four European cruise lines will also remain subject to new national and regional regulations regarding efforts to counter coronavirus and guidance from the European Maritime Safety Agency.
In cruise markets where coronavirus continues to spread with little sign of abating, such as the UK and United States, cruises remain on hold indefinitely.
Here in the Arabian Gulf
While the UAE has shown significant progress in halting the spread of coronavirus, and has reopened its national economy, including easing travel restrictions, no word has been given yet on whether the cruise season will be allowed to resume in November.
Categories: Cruise Industry