European cruise lines: increase in sailings are planned

European cruise lines are progressing in their plans to resume holiday services. Germany’s AIDA cruises and Italy’s Costa Cruises, both subsidiaries of US-based  Carnival Corp, have set new dates for the resumption of cruises.

AIDA, based in Hamburg, had delayed its restart by two weeks to March 20th because of restrictions imposed by the German government. A significant proportion of its clientele are residents of Germany. AIDA intends to resume sailing with the AIDAperla around the Canary Islands. AIDA had been operating cruises in the Canary Islands in the latter part of 2020, but suspended the sailings at the beginning of the year. It gave as its reasons an unspecified technology issue and travel restrictions.

The current resumption plan from AIDA no longer mentions Mediterranean and Northern European cruises, which previously it had hoped to restart on March 6th.

Italy-based Costa Cruises, which had also been offering some cruises in the late part of 2020, had also paused cruise operations after a request from the Italian government in late December. The new date for cruises to resume has now been set for March 27th. Costa Smeralda will restart with weekly cruises calling at the Italian ports of Savona, La Spezia, Civitavecchia, Naples, Messina, and Cagliari. These holidays can be divided into shorter segments. From May, Costa hopes to add French and Spanish ports to the cruise but this was seen by many in the industry as somewhat conditional, even optimistic. Costa also plans to bring Costa Luminosa back into service, departing from Trieste for weekly cruises to Greece and Croatia.

MSC Cruises and TUI’s Mein Schiff currently have a limited service on offer in Europe. MSC Grandiosa resumed her cruises to Italy and Malta at the end of January, having stopped at the end of December 2020. MSC has paused the planned the return of MSC Magnifica, which had been scheduled to begin offering Eastern Mediterranean cruises, including stops in Greece, at the end of February. Those holidays are now planned to recommence at the end of April.

TUIis offering weekly fly-cruise programs around the Canary Islands aboard the Mein Schiff 2, which is limited to a roster of 1,000 passengers (down from its previous maximum of 2,894) and a crew of 800.

MSC and TUI have noted that their strict health and safety protocols have helped ensure that there has been no wide-spread outbreak of Covid-19 on their ships. MSC reported that between August and December more than 30,000 passengers had sailed with the MSC Grandiosa. TUI Cruises has said that since resuming sailing in July 2020 it had carried approaching 60,000 passengers on its ship. At the beginning of February four passengers tested positive for Covid-19 at the end of their cruise. Those passengers and their close contacts were isolated on the ship and later onshore; all other passengers and crew were retested. After negative test results, the passengers were permitted to fly back to Germany.

Cruises in the US look less likely to restart in the near future. The major cruise lines in the country (Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian) have been working with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on more detailed guidance for the next steps in the framework to resume sailing.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, the parent company of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises, and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, has extended its suspension for all sailings until at least May 31st.

Port Canaveral has projected cruises from Florida, even on a limited basis, would not come before July 2021. Tampa’s port has warned that cruise sailings might not recommence before the autumn. The Florida Ports Council has said that, despite some limited resumption this year, it could be a year or more before Florida’s cruise industry was restored.