Royal Caribbean’s German joint venture TUI Cruises sails from the port of Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete tonight as Greece becomes the latest European country to allow the resumption of cruise operations.
The Mein Schiff 6 will pull out of port with some 700 passengers on a seven-day voyage that will also call at Piraeus (Athens) and Corfu. The voyage follows successful cruises held by TUI that have departed from Germany since June at 60 percent capacity without any reported cases of COVID-19 infection.
In addition, MSC Cruises has already launched four one-week cruises aboard the MSC Grandiosa, sailing from Genoa, while Carnival Corporation’s Italian brand Cruises got back on water last week as the Costa Deliziosa sailed from Trieste.
“Cruises are possible even in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic,” said TUI Cruises CEO Wybcke Meier. “In collaboration with the Greek authorities, we have drawn up a plan to ensure the highest level of safety for our passengers throughout the journey. I am very happy that we are contributing in this way to the recovery of tourism in Greece.”
All passengers were required to take a COVID-19 test prior to embarkation and were only able to arrive in Crete on planes chartered by TUI. In addition, as part of TUI’s health and safety plan, passengers can only go on shore excursions organized by TUI.
Meanwhile, Meier told a German newspaper that TUI Cruises plans to have its full fleet sailing by next spring. “We hope to be on the road again with all seven ships by spring 2021 at the latest, with a little less occupancy and the right health concepts,” he told WELT AM SONNTAG.
Meier said he was confident that TUI Cruises would be able to offer trips to the Canary Islands this winter and that talks were being held to establish safe air corridors for voyages from the United Arab Emirates and Greece.
Royal Caribbean Group will surely be watching how TUI fares with its return to service as it along with the rest of the cruise industry awaits news on the US Center for Disease Control’s no-sail order that is currently in place through September 30.
Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley told a meeting of cruise industry executives with the Miami-Dade County Tourism and the Ports Committee last week that the industry was ready to resume cruise operations.
“We’re very optimistic that we will be able to return to service. We’re certainly better prepared today than we were yesterday, and we believe we will be better prepared for tomorrow.”
He added: “It’s time that the cruise industry returned to service and we’re ready.”