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2 of the world's biggest cruise ships just restarted service -- but not everyone is welcome

May 04, 2021
4 min read
2 of the world's biggest cruise ships just restarted service -- but not everyone is welcome
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Two more giant cruise ships restarted operations in the Mediterranean over the weekend. But, for now, the trips only are open to local residents.

Costa Cruises' 5,224-passenger Costa Smeralda -- the world's fifth-largest cruise ship -- resumed sailings out of Savona, Italy, on Saturday with the first of a series of seven-night, all-Italy voyages.

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The trips will bring calls at the Italian ports of Civitavecchia (the port for Rome), Naples, Messina, Cagliari and La Spezia.

Also on Saturday, MSC Cruises' 4,132-passenger MSC Seaside -- the world's 26th-largest cruise ship -- returned to service with the first of a series of seven-night sailings out of Genoa, Italy, to Siracusa, Taranto and Civitavecchia in Italy; and Valetta, Malta.

The Costa Smeralda sailings only are open to Italians for now. The MSC Seaside voyages are open to residents from Europe's 26 Schengen area countries plus Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. But both lines hope to open the sailings to a broader range of travelers over the coming months.

The 5,224-passenger Costa Smeralda departing Savona, Italy, on May 1, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Costa Cruises)

The return of the two vessels to service triples the number of big cruise ships operating in the Mediterranean. As of last week, just one big cruise ship -- MSC Cruises' 4,842-passenger MSC Grandiosa -- was cruising in the region.

MSC Grandiosa -- the world's ninth-largest cruise ship -- restarted cruises out of Genoa in August of 2020 and has been the only big cruise ship sailing in the Mediterranean for much of the last nine months.

Soon there will many more vessels operating in the Mediterranean. Nearly half a dozen major cruise brands including Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises recently have announced plans to resume sailings out of Piraeus, Greece (the port for Athens) over the next three months.

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The restarts include the first Silversea sailings in 15 months, starting on June 18, and the first Seabourn sailings in 16 months, starting on July 3.

Norwegian Cruise Line is resuming Mediterranean sailings on July 25 out of Piraeus in what also will likely be its first voyages in 16 months. Celebrity Cruises is scheduled to begin cruises out of Piraeus on June 19, two weeks after resuming its first cruises in the Caribbean.

Unlike the new sailings on Costa Smeralda and MSC Seaside, the recently announced sailings by the other lines will be open to cruisers from any country in most cases.

Meanwhile, MSC Cruises is gearing up to add another four more ships to service in the Mediterranean by Aug. 1 -- three of which will operate cruises to Greece. The line says it expects the sailings to be open to Americans by July.

Costa has plans to add three more ships to service in the Mediterranean by July 4.

The restarts are happening as Greece moves forward aggressively with a plan to reopen widely to tourists in advance of the summer travel season, and other countries around the Mediterranean get closer to broader reopenings to tourists.

In addition, the European Union's executive branch on Monday proposed that all of its 27 member countries reopen to travelers who have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19. The proposal still needs to be approved by a majority of member states before taking effect.

Cruise lines that are restarting operations in Europe are doing so with a wide range of new anti-COVID-19 safety measures.

Costa Smeralda, for instance, began sailing this week with a reduced passenger load, COVID-19 testing for passengers in advance of embarkation and again mid-cruise; temperature checks for passengers when they come and go from the ship and upon entering shipboard restaurants; limits on passenger touring in ports; and social distancing and mask-wearing on board.

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Featured image by The 5,224-passenger Costa Smeralda departing Savona, Italy, on May 1, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Costa Cruises)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees