‘We’re back!’ Another major cruise line announces restart plans

May 5, 2021

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Add Holland America to the list of cruise lines planning to restart at least some operations by late summer.

The Seattle-based cruise company known for globe-circling itineraries on Wednesday said it would resume departures in the Mediterranean in August — albeit with just a single ship.

The line said its 2,104-passenger Eurodam would operate a series of seven-night voyages out of Piraeus, Greece (the port for Athens) starting on Aug. 15 through early September before repositioning to Venice, Italy, for additional Mediterranean sailings.

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Like many cruise lines, Holland America hasn’t operated a single cruise departure since the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic in March of 2020.

“I’ll give you the punchline, which is we’re back!” Holland America president Gus Antorcha said in advance of the announcement during a call with cruise writers.

Antorcha said the 10-ship line might have other vessels starting up over the summer, too — perhaps even before Aug. 15. But the Eurodam sailings are the first the line is ready to announce.

The announcement is just the latest sign that cruising is finally in the midst of a widespread comeback after more than a year when many lines weren’t able to operate a single departure.

In recent weeks, nearly half a dozen major cruise brands including Norwegian Cruise Line and Celebrity Cruises have announced plans to resume Mediterranean sailings out of Piraeus over the next three months.

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.

Holland America’s 2,104-passenger Eurodam. (Photo courtesy of Holland America)

Norwegian Cruise Line is resuming Mediterranean sailings out of Piraeus on July 25 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.

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, too.

Several lines including Crystal Cruises, Celebrity and Royal Caribbean also have announced plans to restart Caribbean sailings in the coming months with trips out of non-U.S. ports such as Nassau in the Bahamas. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently is blocking all but the smallest cruise ships from sailing out of U.S. ports due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 on ships.

The ship that Holland America is restarting in the Mediterranean, Eurodam, had been scheduled to spend this summer in Alaska. But Holland America fans shouldn’t read too much into the ship redeployment, Antorcha suggested. It doesn’t necessarily mean the line won’t be operating Alaska trips later this summer, he said.

It’s still unclear whether Holland America will be able to restart Alaska sailings later this year, due to regulatory issues. But if the line does, the trips that Eurodam had been scheduled to operate in Alaska will be operated by the similarly sized Nieuw Amsterdam, Antorcha said.

“The reason [for the switch in ships] is a very simple one, which is that the Eurodam at the moment is sitting in Europe, and the Nieuw Amsterdam is sitting in Alaska,” he said. “As we return to service, we may have these tweaks to the ships [used on various itineraries] because we have to be practical as to where the ships actually are located.”

The cruise industry shutdown of the past year has left many vessels at many lines out of position in various parts of the world.

Antorcha said Eurodam initially would offer two different seven-night itineraries out of Piraeus. The first is an “Idyllic Greek Isles” itinerary that brings stops at the Greek islands of Corfu, Santorini and Mykonos plus a visit to Kotor, Montenegro. The second is an “Ancient Wonders” itinerary that brings calls at Náfplion, Mykonos and Rhodes in Greece plus Haifa, Israel.

The two itineraries can be booked back-to-back to create a longer, 14-day voyage without duplicative ports.

Antorcha said Eurodam would reposition to Venice on Sept. 5 with a one-way voyage from Piraeus that brings calls at Mykonos, Katakolon and Crete in Greece, and Sarandë, Albania. After that, the ship will operate voyages between Italy and Greece.

Eurodam will reposition to the Caribbean in mid-November as previously scheduled, Antorcha added.

All passengers on the newly announced Eurodam sailings, including children, will need to show proof that they have received a final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of their voyage.

Such a requirement is increasingly common for cruise ships restarting operations.

Eurodam also will sail with a wide range of new health and safety measures including health screenings for passengers, face mask requirements, physical distancing and capacity controls.

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Featured image courtesy of Holland America.

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