Despite CLIA advising cruise operator members to suspend cruising through October in US waters, interest is building up in re-starting cruising operations in others areas of the world.
For example, the Greek and Italian Governments have said that cruising can resume. However, the Norwegian Government has been forced to suspend vessels carrying 100 pax or more from operating in Norwegian waters for 14 days, following a recent COVID-19 outbreak on a Hurtigruten expedition vessel. Greece has re-opened six ports to cruising – Piraeus, Rhodes, Heraklion, Volos, Corfu, and Katakolon. Greek Minister of Tourism, Haris Theocharis (pictured), said in a letter to CLIA Europe.
“All cruise ships are welcome in Greece to offer a unique experience to all their passengers,” Theocharis said. “Greece is the first country to respond to the cruise industry and introduces health protocols, especially for the type of tourism.”
“The health procedures that will apply on cruise ships under the supervision of the Greek authorities are based on EU Healthy Gateways standards and adjusted to Greek legislation and the local conditions,” he said.
Greek ports will only accept cruise ships if all passengers on board have had a negative test at least 72 hours before boarding, while random tests will also be carried out, the Ministry said.
The letter was also sent to the three largest cruise lines operating in Greece—MSC Cruises, Costa, and TUI Cruises.
On 7th August, Italy’s premier announced a series of new steps to relax controls and permit additional resumption of businesses, including cruises.
Full details are still to be released but he said that cruising could resume on 15th August.
Other countries, including France, French Polynesia, Germany, and Taiwan have granted cruise operators permission to resume operations but with strict guidelines in place.
MSC Cruises has revealed that the ‘MSC Grandiosa’ and ‘MSC Magnifica’ will resume operations in the Mediterranean starting from 16th August and 29th August, 2020 respectively.
MSC explained that the two ships will be the first to implement a new comprehensive health and safety protocol that has been approved by the relevant national authorities from the countries that the ships will call on their East and West Mediterranean itineraries this summer.
Pierfrancesco Vago, MSC Cruises’ Executive Chairman, explained, “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.
“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.
“The new procedures include universal COVID-19 testing for all guests and crew prior to embarkation, protected ashore visits at each destination only with an MSC Cruises’ excursion as an added level of protection for our guests and the introduction of a COVID Protection Plan for further peace of mind for our guests. With all of these measures in place, we aim to offer our guests the safest possible vacation.”
‘MSC Grandiosa’ will serve the Western Mediterranean calling at Genoa, Civitavecchia, Naples, Palermo and Valletta.
‘MSC Magnifica’ will offer cruises in the Eastern Mediterranean departing from Bari and Trieste and calling at Corfu, Katakolon and Piraeus.
The two MSC ships will initially only allow guests who are residents in Schengen countries and subject to any restrictions imposed by the Italian authorities.
MSC Cruises has cancelled all other cruises in the Mediterranean from 16th August through 31st October, 2020 and has cancelled all US cruise departures through 31st October, 2020, in line with CLIA’s guidance.
In addition, Far East cruises have been cancelled from 10th September through 26th October.
Costa Crociere also said that it was preparing to gradually restart its operations, possibly by 6th September, in light of the new protocols that will come into force soon.
“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.
“The cruise industry and Costa specifically, as the only Italian cruise company, create significant value to the economy and to the destinations we visit. 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.” Michael Thamm, Group CEO Costa Group and Carnival Asia said.
“The resumption of our operations in this phase is also a great responsibility towards our guests, our crew members and the residents of the communities we visit. In the next days, we will be working closely with national and local authorities, ports and terminals, RINA and internally on board our ships, for the full implementation of the protocols issued by the Italian Government so we can all together guarantee a smooth, well organised and safe restart of our cruises, both on board and ashore.
“We look forward to announcing shortly the full programme of our itineraries so that thousands of loyal Costa Guests can have the opportunity to sail again with us for the holiday they missed so much,” he concluded.
Meanwhile, Marella Cruises has announced plans to start sailing on 2nd October from Corfu with the ‘Marella Explorer’.
Marella Cruises has introduced its Marella Promise, which is focused on five key commitments to ensure safety on board, the company said.
For example, extra cleaning measures will be implemented, excursion safety guidelines will be checked. The cruise line also said that it will only operate quarantine-free cruises and won’t travel to destinations with isolating measures in place.
Before boarding, customers will be asked to take a simple health screening, which will include a questionnaire and a temperature check. Customers also may be asked to wear face masks at times either on board or ashore. There will also be fewer guests on board to help adhere to social distancing measures. Customer’s luggage will be disinfected before it’s taken to the cabins and there will be signs for one-way systems around the ships. Cabins and public areas will be regularly and thoroughly deep cleaned and there will be an increase in hand sanitiser stations around the ship.
All crew will be given COVID-19 training and will be wearing protective equipment.
AIDA Cruises has confirmed that its first cruise will start from Kiel on 6th September, following earlier reports that the German company was to resume cruising this month from Hamburg.
However, the first Hamburg cruises with ’AIDAperla’ will visit the Norwegian fjords on 12th, 19th and 26th September, following discussions with the company’s Italian flag state.
In a statement, AIDA said it will “review the specific details of this decision and will work closely with all responsible authorities of the flag state Italy and the classification society in order to carefully implement the new protocols and regulations in the sense of a responsible restart on board the AIDA ships.”
AIDA had already announced the cancellation of all cruises in the US and Canada for the rest of this year.
In India, Jalesh Cruises has announced a 6th November departure on its website with its recently acquired ‘Karnika’, built in 1990 as the ‘Crown Princess’.
The Indian Government had already said that it will allow cruise ships to start sailing from 1st October.
Jalesh said it will offer all passengers free rapid COVID-19 and all other flu related testing at the time of embarkation.
Passengers will receive their test results in 15 minutes and be then able to board the ship.
Later, P&O Cruises said it will not resume cruise operations until at least mid-November.