Cruise Lines Revise Plans to Meet Travel Restrictions
Cruise lines continue to map out plans to maintain their operations despite the increasing travel restrictions especially in Europe designed to curb the spread of COVID-19. Also, the US-based cruise lines are working to develop plans to meet the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s new framework for the resumption of cruising.
MSC Cruises, which was the first to resume operations with large cruise ships in the Mediterranean announced several changes to its operations to address the increased restrictions primarily in France and Germany. The cruise line plans to suspend operations for one cruise ship while further increasing the precautions on its ship marketed primarily in Italy.
The MSC Magnifica will suspend cruising as of November 8 with the company targeting resuming sailing on December 18. According to MSC, the market for the 10-day cruises, which had started on October 19, included passengers from France and Germany causing the line to decide to pause these sailings. The trips, which are sailing to ports in Italy, Greece, and Malta, have now been scheduled to continuing till April 2021.
Cruises aboard the MSC Grandiosa will continue during this period. The ship is making weekly cruises to ports in Italy and Malta. MSC is however increasing the precautions due to the current virus situation. Passengers are tested before boarding but will now also be again tested aboard the ship at the mid-week point. Crew, who were being tested twice a month will also now undergo weekly testing. Also for everyone on board, the definition of close contact has been shortened from 15 to 10 minutes, while all of the other precautions remain in place.
The cruises aboard the MSC Grandiosa were also extended till the end of March. MSC Cruises at the same time canceled its planned world cruise due to depart in January 2021. The company said too many ports remain closed.
Also in Europe, several of the river cruise lines said that they were hopeful that they could resume operations for the annual holiday season traditions. Most of the river cruises were focused to suspend operations this week due to the same restrictions that forced the German cruise lines TUI and Hapag-Lloyd to suspend cruises from Germany. The river cruise lines are targeting resuming in December assuming the government restrictions are not extended.
While the European cruise lines are regrouping due to the renewed travel restrictions, Royal Caribbean International’s senior vice president of sales, Vicki Freed, discussed with the travel community the company’s plans to restart cruises from the United States. Earlier in the week, the CEO of the Royal Caribbean Group discussed the CDC’s announcement saying it provided a clear path to resuming cruises.
Royal Caribbean this week announced it was extending the pause for its cruises till the end of the year, but Freed said they were hopeful that this would be the last extension. While admitting that the resuming requires numerous steps, Freed says the company was preparing to launch the required mock cruises the CDC requires planning to rest and refine its health protocols. She was optimistic that the tests could start in December. Freed also predicted that the first cruise cruises would be short cruises from Florida to the line’s private island CocoCay in the Bahamas. Sailing to the private island would permit the cruise to maintain its health protocols and keep passengers within the so-called bubble.
The other major US-based cruise lines, including Carnival Cruise Line and Norwegian Cruise Line, have not provided any details on how they might resume cruising. Both lines were part of the industry's announcement that they would extend their pause in operations through December.