NickoVision, a small river cruise boat, carrying just 110 passengers set sail down the Rhine in Germany June 1, with eyes of an entire industry focused on it.
It was the first time any cruise ship of any size and any capacity had returned to water since a global shut down of the industry in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 135-meter-long ultra-modern NickoVision in normal times carries 220 passengers, but these are anything but normal times.
Passengers must wear masks in public spaces at all times, they had to fill out a health questionnaire and have their temperature taken before embarking, they will only be able to move on a one-way path along the ship, which will be disinfected frequently.
Massage and hairdressing services will be closed, an isolation ward has been readied in case of suspicion of a case of COVID-19, a doctor will be on board and social distancing rules will be maintained during the 13-day journey along the Rhine and the Danube to Dusseldorf.
NickoVision: Welcome to cruising in the age of COVID-19
“We have been working for months to adapt our operations to the ‘new normality’. We’re delighted today to see those efforts paying off. Guests are boarding again and are ready to start rediscovering the wonderful places along the European waterways, Arno Reitsma, CEO of Scylla, a European river fleet flying under a Swiss flag, which charters the boat to Germany’s Nicko Travel, told The Telegraph.
Other riverboat cruises will also return to sail this month, both in Europe and the United States.
Nicko Cruises’ MS Casanova with a full capacity of just 96 passengers will sail June 6 for a 7-day cruise along the Rhine and on June 18 the 46-passenger MS Douro Prince is scheduled to sail along the picturesque Douro valley in Portugal
According to the timetable, the Casanova begins on June 6 on the Rhine. In Portugal, the Douro Cruiser is scheduled to go into operation for Nicko on June 18.
River Cruises to resume sailing
A-ROSA, another German brand, is planning to resume sailings in June, commencing with a river cruise along the Douro in Portugal on June 17, followed by journeys along the Rhine and the Danube later in the month. It also hopes to resume sailings along the Seine and the Rhône in France at the beginning of July.
“River cruises are an ideal and flexible form of travel for a safe relaxing holiday in the ‘new normal,’” said the company’s managing director Jörg Eichler. The ships are comparatively small and have relatively few guests on board, so that the necessary hygiene rules can be implemented efficiently.”
In the United States, American Cruise Lines said it would have two boats back in operation by the end of June, sailing at 75 percent capacity.
The American Song will navigate the Columbia and Snake Rivers, with capacity reduced from 184 guests to 138.
The American Harmony meanwhile will sail down the Mississippi, with 142 guests, well down on its maximum capacity of 190 guests.
The American Queen Steamboat Company (AQSC) also intends to resume sailing by the end of June, with the American Duchess due to cruise back down the Mississippi on July 20 and the American Empress in the Pacific Northwest on July 6.
Victory Cruise Lines, acquired by AQSC last year, plans to resume sailing on the Great Lakes at the beginning of July.
Ocean cruise lines will be watching with envy.