Royal Caribbean’s joint venture TUI Cruises of Germany is expanding its cruise restart with a third ship due to set sail in September when the Mein Schiff 6 will depart from the Greek island of Crete on a one-week voyage.
The move comes after successful sailings by the Mein Schiff 1 and Mein Schiff 2 at 60 percent capacity without any reported cases of COVID-19 infection.
Several crew members however did test positive before boarding the Mein Schiff 1, with the company saying that its health protocols, in which crew are tested and then isolated for 14 days, were working.
The company has also announced that from September, passengers will also be required to provide a negative corona test before being allowed to board.
Earlier this week, TrvlTrend reported that Royal Caribbean is also considering testing passengers for COVID-19 when it eventually restarts operations.
TUI said that the September sailings from Crete would include shore excursions – unlike its previous sailings since its July restart which have been circular tours without disembarkation – but only on organized trips.
Organized shore trips only
“To ensure that the high hygiene and safety standards are also adhered to here, the shore excursions from Piraeus, Crete and Corfu will, until further notice, only be carried out through organized shore excursions arranged by TUI Cruises,” the company said.
Tui Cruises CEO Wybcke Meier told the German daily Stern that while nobody “can guarantee a COVID-free environment … we can do a lot to minimize the risk.”
Meier said TUI had developed a comprehensive health protocol and that with its ships having a high ratio of balcony cabins, it was banking on its passengers enjoying “deck chairs, a fresh breeze, and looking out to sea.”
With TUI currently sailing with just 60 percent capacity, Meier said restoring trust in cruising to show that cruises are again possible, with profitability not the “top priority.”
Meanwhile, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, recently acquired by TUI cruises said its EUROPA2 cruise ship had reached
Hamburg, after completing her first restart trip in the Norwegian fjords.
Royal Caribbean looking and learning
Royal Caribbean will be looking closely at the experiences of its German partners as it seeks to develop its own protocols for COVID-19.
Both Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain and Royal Caribbean Cruises CFO Jason Liberty touched on the point during a second quarter earnings call earlier this week.
“Both our TUI brand as well as Hapag-Lloyd have resumed. In both cases, the protocols that have been employed have one been well received and also seem to be managing the health aspects of this,” Liberty said.
“While we’ve installed some more protocols, social distancing and so forth, what we have seen is that we’ve been able to put on an experience, a vacation that is resonating very well with our German customers,” he continued.
“It’s important to understand, we’re all still learning about COVID-19 and the implications,” Fain added. “ And so, the opportunity to see what does happen under certain circumstances is really helpful to all of us as we’re going through this process.”