Rising COVID cases threaten budding restart of cruising in Europe

a boat on a body of water

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The budding comeback of cruising that began in Europe over the summer may have hit a high-water mark for now.

New lockdown measures in Germany and France this week in the wake of soaring COVID-19 cases have forced at least a half-dozen ocean and river cruise lines to cancel sailings across the continent since Wednesday.

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Perhaps most notably, German line AIDA Cruises on Thursday said it would cancel all voyages through the end of November. The sister brand to Carnival Cruise Line had just resumed sailings around Italy out of Civitavecchia (the port for Rome) on Oct. 17.

Also canceling a number of upcoming cruises was Costa Cruises, which had resumed voyages in Europe on Sept. 6. The line on Wednesday announced it would drop plans for sailings out of Italy to ports in Italy, France and Spain that were scheduled to begin on Nov. 14. The ship that was to operate the trips, Costa Smeralda, instead will continue with Italy-only voyages.

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a boat on a body of water: The Costa Cruises ship Costa Deliziosa. (Photo courtesy of Costa Cruises)

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The Costa Cruises ship Costa Deliziosa. (Photo courtesy of Costa Cruises)

Costa also canceled a world cruise scheduled to begin soon on another ship, Costa Deliziosa, and said the vessel would skip calls in Montenegro and Croatia on current sailings out of Italy.

Costa also canceled plans for upcoming sailings on three more ships: Costa Diadema, Costa Firenze and Costa Favolosa.

In addition, on Thursday, a wave of river cruise lines began canceling voyages across Europe, including:

  • A-Rosa. The Germany-based cruise line canceled all sailings on the Danube and Rhine rivers through the end of November. A-Rosa also has canceled all remaining sailings for the year in Portugal and France.
  • Viva Cruises. The Germany-based river cruise seller canceled all sailings through the end of November.
  • Plantours. The Germany-based tour company canceled Thursday’s sailing of its 173-passenger river ship Lady Diletta on the Rhine River. It was the only river cruise the company had planned to operate in November.

France-based river line CroisiEurope this week also has canceled a wide range of sailings.

Many of the lines specifically cited the far-reaching lockdown measures announced by the German government on Wednesday as the main reason for the cancellations.

Scheduled to take effect on Monday and aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus, the new measures include the closure of restaurants and bars, and a ban on hotel stays for leisure travel. The German government also is discouraging all “unnecessary travel.”

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Europe has been one of the few places around the world where limited cruising has resumed since the summer. In addition to AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises, major lines that have restarted operations in the Mediterranean or the waters of northern Europe in recent months include international brand MSC Cruises and TUI Cruises — the latter a Germany-based line that caters to German speakers.

Both brands said they would go ahead with sailings for now.

MSC Cruises has restarted operations with two ships out of Italy, which is not yet in a major lockdown of the sort announced Wednesday by Germany. But TUI Cruises’ restart has included two ships that sail directly out of German ports in the north of the country.

In a statement, TUI suggested that Germany’s new restrictions on restaurants, bars and other venues where people congregate would not apply to its ships since they do not remain in German ports for long. The company appears to be ignoring the government’s call for Germans to avoid unnecessary travel.

“The measures announced by the federal and state governments (of Germany) will not bring our ships to a standstill again,” TUI Cruises said in its statement. “Because staying onboard our ships does not count as domestic tourism, the arrival and departure in the respective departure port is still permitted as a transit.”

TUI’s stance on the new German restrictions was notably different than the stance of its German rival AIDA, which cited the restrictions as the reason it was shutting down operations.

In a statement on its cancellations sent to The Points Guy, AIDA said “this follows the Federal Government of Germany’s Oct. 28 decision to impose further restrictions on public life and travel to limit the spread of COVID-19, which AIDA Cruises fully supports.”

AIDA noted in its statement that its top priority was “compliance, environmental protection and the health, safety and well-being of its guests, crew, shoreside employees, and the people and communities its ships visit – and that commitment is reflected in the line’s temporary pause in cruise operations.”

TUI Cruises is partly owned by Royal Caribbean Group, the parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea.

Two small-ship operators, France-based Ponant and Germany-based Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, also have resumed sailings out of some European ports. Neither line had canceled upcoming sailings as of the publishing of this story.

Additional resources for cruisers during the coronavirus outbreak:

Feature image courtesy of Costa Cruises

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