The Germany-based company TUI Cruises on Sunday, September 13, will become the first major cruise company to restart Greek Island sailings since the Coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown began, with roundtrips from homeport Heraklion, Crete.
Two more major companies - Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises are planning their own return to Greek Island journeys in the coming weeks. Last month, MSC said it would restart sailings to Greece on September 26 with one ship (MSC Magnifica) which will operate 7-night roundtrips from the Italian homeports Trieste and Bari to the Greek ports of Piraeus, Kerkyra (Corfu) and Katakolon. Costa announced it would resume Greece sailings on October 10 with roundtrips from Trieste on Costa Deliziosa. A second Costa liner - Costa Diadema, will begin Greece voyages in November.
If the cruise ship lines are successful in resuming Greek Islands operations, more companies are expected to resume sailings there in the coming months. Greece recently said it was open to cruise companies resuming service.
For now, Greece sailings are off-limits to U.S. passport holders because of travel restrictions imposed by the country. TUI Cruises' trips are aimed at German nationals who will fly to the cruise ship on chartered flights from Germany. Costa Cruises and MSC Cruises' sailings are open to select European countries' residents but are expected to draw mostly Italians.
Greece is the latest country to allow cruises to resume. Over the last 3 months, cruise companies have restarted limited departures from ports in over half a dozen countries including Germany, Italy, France, Norway and Taiwan. Cruises from US ports remain on hold due to a “no-sail” order by the USA's CDC agency.
The new TUI Cruises voyages around Greece will be the line’s first since the coronavirus lockdown that includes calls at ports, and the line is taking some extreme measures to ensure that the new coronavirus doesn’t get aboard its ships during the calls. Passengers only will be allowed to leave the cruise ship in ports when on a cruise-line organized shore trip. The rule is similar to one imposed by Costa and MSC Cruises in recent weeks.
TUI Cruises is requiring that all passengers test negative for Coronavirus (COVID-19) before boarding. But unlike Costa and MSC Cruises, the company is not doing the tests at the pier as guests board. Vacationers can take the test a few days before sailing at one of 86 locations in Germany. The test's cost is included in the fare.
TUI Cruises will also operate Mein Schiff 6 at just 60% of her capacity and do daily passenger temperature checks.
Prices for TUI’s Greek cruises start at EUR 1300 (USD 1550) for a balcony cabin.