First Date Announced for US Cruises as European Ships Have New Scares

US cruises set target date while Europeans have new scares over coronavirus
Grand Classica is the first U.S.- based cruise ship to announce a sailing date - photo courtesy of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line

Published Oct 16, 2020 9:36 PM by The Maritime Executive

Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line, an operator of short cruises between Florida and the Bahamas, once again has become the first US-based cruise line to announce a date for the resumption of cruises. The company had set previous dates for a return to service, but with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) no sail order still in place, the company announced it is now targeting December 18, 2020 for its first cruise.

According to the CEO of the company, Oneil Khosa, the company will resume sailings to Freeport on Grand Bahama Island with two-night cruises departing from West Palm Beach, Florida. The company has been adjusting its return to service dates from June to July, September, and November based on the CDC’s extensions of the no sail order and conditions related to the pandemic.

The company also announced changes to its plans to return to service including switching to its cruise ship the Grand Classica. Khosa noted that this ship is the larger of the company’s two cruise ships but has nearly 100 fewer staterooms than the Grand Celebration that had been scheduled to be the company’s first cruise ship to return to service. He noted that the larger size would provide passengers more space on the ship and that they would further limit the ship to 60 percent of capacity.

Initially, the company plans to only sail the one ship and to operate only to Grand Bahama Island. He said they would announce plans to resume service to Nassau in the Bahamas at a later date. 

In setting the December target date, Bahamas Paradise becomes the first cruise line to announce a specific date for cruises to sail from the United States. The larger US-based cruise lines, including Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean International, all recently delayed their return to service. The major cruise lines are reportedly still monitoring the progression of the coronavirus, government restrictions, and people’s willingness to travel to determine when to resume service.

News of the planned return to services comes as the media is reporting that two of the cruise ships operating in Europe have both experienced issues related to the coronavirus. The Italian newspaper Il Secolo XIX reported that seven passengers tested positive for COVID-19 after disembarking the Costa Diadema in Palermo, Italy. The Italian media are reporting that the Italian health authorities ordered the cruise ship to retest all of its crew for the virus. The ship was reportedly ending its current cruise sailing directly to Genoa. Costa Cruises, however, has told media in Europe that the cruise was ended because the ship was operating for a French tour company and it was decided based on the increased restrictions in France to disembark the passengers early so that they could travel home.

MSC Cruises' MSC Grandiosa was due today in Malta on her weekly cruises. The Malta Independent is reporting that the passengers were not permitted to go ashore because of suspicion of a COVID-19 case. The captain of the ship reportedly told the local officials on arrival that they had a passenger that might have the virus. The ship was permitted to dock in Malta to take on supplies, but later departed continuing its cruise which is due to return to Italy on Sunday. Reuters is reporting that Malta is increasing its coronavirus restrictions for residents, including requiring masks and placed an 11 p.m. curfew on nightclubs and bars on the island. Both Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises have implemented strict health and safety protocols attempting to prevent the virus from getting aboard their ships as well as having protocols to manage suspected cases.

Tomorrow, October 17, a second cruise brand of the Carnival Corporation is also due to resume cruising. The brand, AIDA, is focused on the German-speaking market. Its cruise ship the AIDAblu is scheduled to begin weekly cruises from Civitavecchia near Rome visiting Palermo and Catania in Sicily, and Naples, and La Spezia, Italy. AIDA had previously planned to resume sailing in August with short cruises from Germany. This first series of cruises is scheduled to continue until November 28 on a trial basis. The line will also be requiring negative COVID-19 tests from passengers and crew as well as implementing health and safety protocols.