Costa Cruises Details Plans to Lead Cruising's Return to Service

cruise industry looks to return with Costa announcing new cruises and ships
Costa Smeralda is due to return to service in October 2020 - photo courtesy of Costa Cruises

Published Sep 11, 2020 8:23 PM by The Maritime Executive

The cruise industry is ready to sail. That’s the message of the industry’s executives and to provide it Carnival Corporation’s Costa Cruises unveiled the most ambitious restart plan among the major cruise lines. 

Speaking at a meeting of the Miami-Dade County Tourism and Ports Committee, the executives discussed their plans to begin a strategic ramp-up of cruise operations. They pointed to Europe where several cruise lines have begun carefully controlled cruising and said that the world and the industry is to a point where everyone now knows how to live and work while the virus remains a challenge.

Costa Cruises sailing from Italy began its first cruises in six months following similar protocols to TUI Cruises which resumed operations during the summer from Germany and MSC Cruises which resumed its cruises from Italy last month. Niche operators including Ponant, Paul Gauguin, Sea Dream Yacht Club, Hapag Cruises, and Hurtigruten, also resumed operations. While Hurtigruten’s failures were well-publicized, the other firms following similar protocols have been able to avoid significant outbreaks of the virus. In the US, the only firm that restarted, UnCruises was forced to again pause operations after a scare when one passenger received one positive and later one negative test for COVID-19.

So far, cruising has mostly been limited to either sea time or close to home ports. Norway closed its waters causing some cruises to pause and others to spend their time at sea. Italy has permitted cruise ships sailing from Italy to call at Italian ports under tightly controlled protocols. MSC, however, received attention when its ship crossed international borders and called in Malta on its weekly itinerary.

Continuing the ramp-up of cruising, Costa detailed plans for the winter of 2020-2021 with a gradual return of an increasing number of ships, longer cruises, expanding the areas from where passengers can reside, and increasing the destinations including more cruises crossing national borders. While some of it may be aspirational plans, it none the less highlights the cruise industry's efforts to return to service. Costa's sister brand, AIDA Cruises which markets to German-speaking passengers, also recently detailed plans after several delays to start cruising in November 2020.

Costa’s initial cruises were limited to residents of Italy, but working with the Italian government they plan to expand to residents of additional countries. At first, it is likely to be limited to the Schengen region of Europe and the health protocols will be maintained. Some countries may also require returning residents to agree to COVID-19 testing.

In October, Costa plans to restart operations on its flagship the Costa Smeralda sailing from Savona, Italy to ports in the West Mediterranean. Also, in October, the Costa Deliziosa which has been sailing from Trieste to Italian ports will begin to add ports in Greece to its itinerary. The following month, Costa says it will launch its first 12- and 14-day cruises to Egypt, Greece, and the Canary Islands aboard the Costa Diadema.

In a surprise development, Costa also said it expects delivery of a new cruise ship from Fincantieri, which may be the first, or one of only a few, large cruise ships Fincantieri delivers in 2020. The plan calls for the introduction of the Costa Firenze starting December 27, sailing on seven-day cruises from Savona to La Spezia and Naples in Italy, Valencia and Barcelona in Spain, and Marseille, France.

Possibly also aspirational, Costa says the Costa Deliziosa will depart January 3, 2021, on a world cruise. In addition, while the cruise line canceled the remainder of its winter program, including cruises from South America, the line excluded its planned Caribbean cruises on the Costa Favolosa from the current cancelations. They said they would be supplying information about these cruises as soon as possible.

In North America, the cruise companies are also anxious to restart their first operations. The executives expressed it to the Miami commissioners and also said they will be increasing efforts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC, however, is still in its fact-finding mode with the public comment period before it releases its new processes and ends the current no sail order for cruises departing US ports and carrying US passengers.