Photos: Tui Cruises
By Pierre Terrien, Publisher
The German cruise line TUI Cruises has kick-started its operations on Friday July 24 with the “Mein Schiff 2” sailing for the first time since the industry was shut down because of the coronavirus, with 1,200 people on board. The first 3-nights-voyage from Hamburg across the North Sea to Norway consisted exclusively of sea days.
Sebastian Ebel, responsible member of the Executive Board of TUI Group, was on site at the departure: “An important milestone: After the resumption of hotel and flight operations, we are glad that this important segment is also back in business. The demand is high, booking rates are positive and many customers want to spend their holiday on a cruise ship.»
Capacity on the ship has been aggressively reduced. Capable of taking some 2,900 guests, it left Hamburg at 60% capacity, following numerous new health and safety protocols. Passengers and crew are required to stay 5 feet away or wear protective masks and won’t serve themselves at the ship’s buffet. All passengers filled out a health questionnaire before boarding and had temperature checks.
TUI, a joint venture between TUI Group and Royal Caribbean, will add a second ship into service in August, the Mein Schiff 1 according to a statement. «Having implemented comprehensive health and safety protocols on board our vessels, we also plan to begin a gradual restart of our cruise business. TUI Cruises is planning to restart operations with short three to four day cruises this summer. These “Blue Cruises” in the North and Baltic Seas with reduced capacity offer an attractive alternative for a summer holiday in Germany. Subject to the opening of further ports, TUI Cruises is planning additional longer routes as a next step.»
AIDA, Carnival Corporation’s German brand, will follow with a planned start up in August with a trio of ships sailing from various German ports. The sailings will leave German ports and will not dock at any transit ports, and the ships won’t be at full occupancy. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises also plans to return to service in the summer.
A very humble restart for such a giant industry, but one that is appreciated fondly according to passenger comments. «Back at sea at last!»