European Cruise Lines Plan to Resume More Sailings
Cruise operations in Europe are moving forward with plans for the resumption of service while in North America the industry continues to await the opportunity to resume its cruises. After pausing operations due to the resurgence of the coronavirus and renewed government restrictions, Germany’s AIDA cruises and Italy’s Costa Cruises, both parts of Carnival Corporation, reset their dates to resume cruises.
Citing the current travel restrictions from the German federal government, AIDA delayed its restart by two weeks to March 20. The company plans to resume sailing around the Canary Islands aboard its ship the AIDAperla. AIDA had briefly operated cruises in the Canary Islands but suspended the sailings at the beginning of the year citing an unspecified technology issue and then the travel restrictions. The current plan to resume sailing only highlighted the Canary Islands cruises whereas in the past AIDA had also said it would also resume Mediterranean and Northern European cruises on March 6.
Italy’s Costa Cruises had also paused cruise operations at the request of the Italian government around the holidays at year’s end. Since then, the company has revised its plans with the new date for cruises to resume set for March 27. The line’s flagship, the Costa Smeralda, will restart with weekly cruises calling at the Italian ports of Savona, La Spezia, Civitavecchia, Naples, Messina, and Cagliari that can also be divided into shorter segments. Starting in May, Costa plans to add French and Spanish ports to the cruise. They are also planning to bring a second cruise ship, the Costa Luminosa, back into service, departing from Trieste for weekly cruises to Greece and Croatia.
AIDA and Costa’s cruise programs would join MSC Cruises and TUI’s Mein Schiff which have the only two large cruise ships operating in Europe. The MSC Grandiosa resumed her cruises to Italy and Malta at the end of January after a month’s pause during the holiday season. MSC, however, has also delayed the return of the MSC Magnifica, which was scheduled to begin offering Eastern Mediterranean cruises with stops in Greece at the end of February. The line now anticipates starting its cruises to Greece at the end of April.
The Germany TUI brand continued its cruises sailing weekly fly-cruise programs around the Canary Islands aboard the Mein Schiff 2. The ship, which has a normal passenger capacity of 2,894 people, is currently limited to carrying about 1,000 passengers and has a crew of 800.
Both MSC and TUI highlighted that they are continuing to follow strict health and safety protocols and have not experienced a wide-spread outbreak of the virus on their ships. MSC reported that between August and December over 30,000 passengers had sailed with the MSC Grandiosa. Starting in November, the health and safety protocols were expanded to include testing for passengers before boarding the cruise and again at mid-week and weekly testing for the crew as well as social distancing and the use of face coverings in public areas.
TUI Cruises reports since resuming sailing in July 2020 they have carried almost 60,000 passengers on their ships which sailed from Germany, as well as to Greece, and now in the Camry Islands. The company has had a few incidents, including at the beginning of February four passengers tested positive for the virus at the end of their cruise. Followed the health procedures agreed with the local authorities those passengers and their close contacts were isolated on the ship and later onshore while all of the passengers and crew were retested. After negative test results, the passengers were permitted to fly back to Germany while the ship received its normal sanitation protocols at the end of the cruise. The four passengers were reported showing minor or no symptoms of the virus.
While the European cruise programs have announced dates for their sailings, in the United States the cruise lines are continuing to cancel cruises and report that they are working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on more detailed guidance for the next steps in the framework to resume sailing. Yesterday, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, extended its suspension for all sailings through May 31, 2021.
With the continued uncertainty, hope among port officials in the United States is fading for a significant resumption of cruise service before at least mid-2021. Briefings its commissioners, Port Canaveral’s executives projected that a resumption of cruising would not come before July 2021 and even then on a limited basis. The Port of Tampa has projected that it might not see cruise sailings until the fall of 2021. The Florida Ports Council recently forecast that some cruise ships might return on a limited basis in the summer of 2021, but that it could be a year or more until Florida’s cruise industry was restored.