Major cruise lines are about to resume sailings to Greece — but not everyone’s invited

Sep 10, 2020

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Add Greece to the list of places where big-ship cruising is resuming.

Germany-based TUI Cruises on Sunday will become the first major cruise line to restart Greek Island voyages since the coronavirus lockdown began with sailings out of Heraklion, Crete.

The seven-night trips will take place on the line’s 2,534-passenger Mein Schiff 6 and feature stops at Corfu and Piraeus (the port for Athens).

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The sailings are starting as two more major lines, MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises, gear up for their own return to Greek Island sailings in the coming weeks.

MSC Cruises said last month that it would restart voyages to Greece on Sept. 26 with one ship, the 2,550-passenger MSC Magnifica. It’ll operate seven-night departures from the Italian ports of Bari and Trieste to the Greek ports of Corfu, Katakolon and Piraeus.

Costa Cruises on Thursday said it would resume Greece cruises on Oct. 10 with sailings out of Trieste, Italy, on the 2,260-passenger Costa Deliziosa. A second Costa ship, the 3,724-passenger Costa Diadema, will begin Greece sailings in November.

Until now, only very small cruise vessels such as Variety Cruises’ 24-cabin sailing yacht Galileo had restarted operations in the Greek Islands.

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles

Mein Schiff 6
The TUI Cruises ship Mein Schiff 6 will begin sailing out of the Greek island of Crete on Sept. 13. (Photo courtesy of TUI Cruises)

TUI Cruises and MSC Cruises have been among the most aggressive of the major lines in returning to service since cruise lines around the world halted operations in March. TUI Cruises began “cruises to nowhere” out of ports in northern Germany in July with two ships. MSC Cruises restarted cruises to Italy and Malta out of Italian ports in August with one ship.

Costa Cruises just resumed sailings on Sunday with a single ship — Costa Deliziosa — sailing out of Trieste, Italy. It’s currently sailing an all-Italy itinerary.

So far, none of the lines have reported a COVID-related incident.

If the lines are successful in resuming operations in the Greek Islands, more cruise lines are expected to resume trips there in the coming months. The country recently said it was open to cruise lines resuming service.

Still, for U.S. travelers, there’s a caveat to the restart of the trips. For now, cruises to Greece are off-limits to U.S. passport holders due to travel restrictions imposed by the country.

The TUI Cruises sailings are aimed at Germans who will fly to the ship on chartered flights from Germany. The MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises sailings only are open to residents of select European countries but are expected to mostly draw Italians.

Little known in North America, TUI Cruises is one of the biggest cruise lines in the world designed for German speakers. Partly owned by Royal Caribbean Group through a joint venture, it operates seven mostly new and modern vessels, with three more on order.

Greece is just the latest country to allow cruise departures to resume. Over the last three months, cruise lines have restarted limited departures from ports in more than half a dozen countries including Norway, Germany, France, Italy and Taiwan.

Cruises out of U.S. ports remain on hold for now due to a “no-sail” order by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Related: When will cruising resume? A line-by-line guide 

The new TUI Cruises voyages around Greece will be the line’s first since the coronavirus lockdown that include 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.

Among them: Passengers only will be allowed to leave the ship in ports when on a cruise-line organized shore excursion.

The rule is similar to one imposed by MSC Cruises and Costa in recent weeks as they’ve restarted sailings out of Italy.

TUI Cruises also is requiring that all passengers test negative for COVID-19 before boarding. But unlike MSC Cruises and Costa, the line isn’t doing the tests at the pier as passengers board. Passengers can take the test a few days before traveling at one of 86 locations in Germany. The cost of the test is included in the cruise fare.

Related: Has MSC Cruises cracked the code for a safe return of cruising?

Among other health measures, TUI Cruises will operate Mein Schiff 6 at just 60% of capacity and do passenger temperature checks daily.

Fares for the line’s new Greek trip start at 1,299 euros for a balcony cabin (about $1,547).

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Featured image courtesy of TUI Cruises

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