Cruise lines in North America will be looking hopefully across the Atlantic this summer as three German cruise lines today announced today, they will resume operations as early as July 24.
First to make an announcement was Carnival Corporation’s wholly-owned subsidiary AIDA Cruises which said that three of its ships would resume sailing in August. Hamburg- based TUI Cruises, a joint venture with Royal Caribbean also said later today that it would commence cruising on July 27, while Hapag-Lloyd Cruises – the sale of which to TUI was completed this week – will sail at the end of July 2020, with two ships at 60 percent capacity.
The resumption of sailing by the three German lines follows the news that Norwegian expedition cruise line Hurtigruten – which became the first ocean cruise liner to resume sailing in June – has announced plans to bring back 14 of its 16 ships. Hong Kong based Genting has also announced the restart of cruise operations for Dream Cruises with Explorer Dream operating two and three-night “Taiwan Island-Hopping” itineraries beginning from July 26.
CDC and North American cruise lines will be watching closely
The return to operations in Europe and the Far East will be closely followed by North American cruise lines, which are anxiously awaiting news on when the US Centers for Disease Control will lift its 100-day no-sail order currently running until July 24.
Earlier this week, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, two of the world’s largest cruise companies, announced a joint ‘Healthy-Sail’ panel to develop enhanced cruise health and safety standards in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
While the panel is only expected to publish initial recommendations in mid-August, the measures it is likely to recommend are expected to be similar to those already published in a European Union document titled “Interim Advice for Restarting Cruise Ship Operations” that was released June 30, which sets out extensive guidance for the operation of cruise ships in the COVID-19 era, and to the protocols adopted by the above-mentioned cruise lines that have announced dates for a return to sailing.
German cruise lines – European guidelines for return to operations
Among these are a phased return to restarting cruise ship operations with short itineraries of three to seven days and limitations on port visits.
The 48-page document sets out extensive guidance on all aspects of maintaining social distancing, personal hygiene, food safety, operation of entertainment venues, hairdressers, beauty salons, gyms and shared facilities.
It recommends that passengers and crew wear facemasks at terminal stations and indoors. Self-service buffet food operations should be avoided according to the guidance, which also recommends that crew and passengers are divided into designated groups and are served food at different times to limit interaction. Indoor swimming pools should be closed, while outdoor pools should be restricted to one bather per 43 feet of water surface.
With North American lines working on their protocols and safety measures, they will not be looking to see how similar measures work once implemented on European cruise lines, as will the CDC, which will shortly be required to take a decision of monumental importance for the industry.
Short sailings, reduced capacity, and no port calls
AIDA Cruises will set sail on August 5 from Hamburg with 4,350 passenger AIDAperla will be the first to, followed by the Sphinx Class AIDAmar, with a capacity of 2,686 passengers, from Rostock-Warnemünde on August 12 and the 2,192 passenger, Sphinx class AIDAblu from Kiel on August 16.
Capacity will be reduced on all sailings and ships will not call at other ports.
Safety measures will range from a health questionnaire prior to the cruise, to temperature measurements before check-in for guests and crew, to physical distancing guidelines and routing systems on arrival and departure and onboard, to closely managing capacities at venues such as restaurants, bars, theatres, sports, and wellness areas.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ eight announced sailings will operate with a 40 percent reduction in the number of passengers and a 10-point plan that will see guests receive protective care masks, ships equipped with thermal imaging cameras and medical laboratories, and no port calls.
TUI Cruises one of the leading German Cruise Lines
TUI Cruises TUI Cruises will commence operations on the Mein Schiff 2 on July 24 with a three-night roundtrip cruise from Hamburg around the North Sea. The ship has a capacity of 2,900, which will be reduced to 1,740 guests.
TUI said it had also developed a 10-point plan for resuming cruise operations with measures based on the “medical standards of renowned institutions such as the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the locally applicable guidelines and guidelines.”