Dhe cruise industry is picking up speed again. “We experienced a strong summer and are confident for the autumn and winter season. Even if short-term bookings still predominate,” says spokeswoman Kathrin Heitmann from Aida Cruises.
It is true that many ships have not yet reached the high utilization rates of the pre-pandemic year 2019; Norwegian Cruise Line, for example, reports a booking situation of 80 percent for the third quarter of 2022. However, the international Cruise Lines Association predicts that the number of cruise passengers worldwide could reach a new record as early as 2023.
For passengers, this means that those who set sail this winter will travel more leisurely – there is more space and there is less haste to reserve shore excursions. But what about the current corona management of the shipping companies? We answer the most important questions.
Do Corona rules still apply?
No, the shipping companies have reduced the catalog of protective measures. So there is no longer a mask requirement, at least not for travelers, only the crew members must continue to wear a mouth and nose cover.
However, value is still placed on corona test evidence. At TUI Cruises, for example, all guests aged four and over must present a negative self-test between 48 and 72 hours before departure as well as a certified negative antigen test, which should not be older than 24 hours.
Aida Cruises currently requires a certified negative antigen test for all guests aged three and over. As far as the corona vaccination is concerned, the Rostock-based shipping company differentiates according to the duration of the trip: Guests aged 18 and over only need full vaccination protection for extended cruises of 16 days or more, all shorter trips are also free for those who have not been vaccinated.
In general, Covid-19 vaccinations are no longer a prerequisite for cruises per se. Godja Sönnichsen, spokeswoman for TUI Cruises, confirms that cruises with the Mein Schiff fleet are again possible without vaccination in the first European destinations. “The travel requirements are based on the local requirements of the sailing areas. Since these now differ greatly from one another, we allow for the greatest possible freedom for each individual ship based on the course of the route.”
It is sometimes different when driving on distant shores. For example, anyone who wants to cruise the Indian Ocean and the Pacific with the luxury liners from Hapag-Lloyd Cruises in the winter months cannot avoid complete immunization. Passengers on the “Europa”, the “Europa 2” and the three expedition ships need proof of vaccination. In addition, all guests require a negative test (PCR or antigen) for check-in. This makes Hapag-Lloyd one of the shipping companies with the most comprehensive preventive measures.
Norwegian Cruise Line basically “waived all Covid-19 test requirements, mask requirements and vaccination requirements” on October 4th, except for individual ports. MSC Cruises also no longer requires proof of vaccination for embarkation when traveling in the Mediterranean region, but points out to passengers that a corona vaccination may be required “in various ports of call”. This means that unvaccinated guests might not be able to disembark on shore excursions.
And overseas? After the US disease control agency CDC lifted all Covid-19 recommendations for cruise ships at the end of July and handed responsibility back to the shipping companies, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Seabourn canceled the test requirement and have since allowed unvaccinated, but demonstrably healthy passengers on board.
Is life on the ship still restricted?
“Life on board is currently little different than before the pandemic,” says Godja Sönnichsen from TUI Cruises. However, there could be “short-term adjustments to the cruise protocols”.
This is also the tenor at Aida Cruises: “We stagger the arrival and departure, the safety briefing takes place in small groups or digitally,” says Kathrin Heitmann from Aida Cruises. In addition, the variety of experiences for passengers is not restricted.
What happens if you suspect Covid-19?
Most ships are equipped with diagnostic equipment for quick test evaluation. Anyone who tests positive must spend the isolation period in the cabin. A quarantine on land only takes place if ordered by the authorities or if it is medically necessary.
Free cancellation – is that possible?
No, the same applies in the cruise industry as with package tours: Anyone who falls ill with Covid-19 can only cancel free of charge if they have taken out insurance that covers exactly this case. Only Royal Caribbean says on request that it will refund “100 percent of the travel price for the entire booking” if one of the guests tests positive for Covid-19 within ten days before the cruise or at the embarkation terminal.
What has changed with the pandemic?
Many European shipping companies such as Aida Cruises, TUI Cruises, MSC Cruises and Nicko Cruises are offering more sea voyages than in the pre-Corona times, departing from German ports and ending there again. The organizers are thus reacting to the demand from guests for cruises without a flight.
Even long-term trips to the Canary Islands and the Caribbean are now possible from/to Germany. Aida Cruises offers a 44-day Caribbean trip with the “Aidabella” from/to Hamburg, and Hapag-Lloyd has a 279-day world trip from/to Hamburg in its program.
As a bonus to guests, Costa Cruises has extended layovers in many Mediterranean ports to allow for longer excursions. And Norwegian Cruise Line continued to develop its offer with the goal of “incorporating fewer sea days in the routes and more ports where the NCL ships anchor up to 13 hours”.
Are there new routes and trends?
For the first time, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises will even be en route with all three expedition ships in the Antarctic from November to March, Hurtigruten will be in the South Pole region with 34 departures in 2023/2024. In general, interest in long-distance travel is picking up again. The Arctic, Asia and Alaska are also in high demand.
Destinations in the sun are popular with cruisers: the Caribbean runs very well in winter, confirms Costa Germany boss Jörg Rudolph in the specialist magazine “FVW”, and the demand for the Emirates is also increasing noticeably. Latin and South America are also in trend, so Royal Caribbean, for example, is offering tours from Panama and Colombia in 2023.
What about the energy balance?
As the world’s first ocean liner, the “Aidanova” has been running on low-emission liquefied natural gas (LNG) since 2018, as has the new “Aidacosma”, which was christened in April. That lowers the CO2-Emission by 20 percent compared to diesel ships.
The “MSC World Europe” also relies on LNG; the megaliner will be christened in Doha on November 13 and will be on the road in the Gulf region – just in time for the start of the soccer World Cup in Qatar.