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Cruise ships that restarted in Europe over the summer are shutting back down

Dec. 05, 2020
6 min read
MSC Grandiosa
Cruise ships that restarted in Europe over the summer are shutting back down
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The comeback of cruising that began over the summer in Europe started to stall in October as coronavirus cases surged. And now it's in full reversal mode.

Two of the biggest lines to restart limited sailings in Europe in recent months -- MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises -- this week said they would pause all voyages in the coming days due to growing travel restrictions brought on by higher coronavirus case counts.

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MSC Cruises on Friday canceled three departures of the only ship that it currently has operating, MSC Grandiosa, that are scheduled to take place between Dec. 20 and Jan. 10.

The 4,842-passenger cruise ship -- one of the world's largest -- had resumed sailings on Aug. 16 out of Genoa, Italy, in what at the time was considered a major milestone in the post-COVID comeback of cruising. MSC Cruises was the first major cruise line to restart sailings in the Mediterranean since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Related: The best credit cards for booking cruises

Costa Cruises resumed limited sailings in the Mediterranean in September. (Photo courtesy of Costa Cruises)

MSC Cruises on Friday also pushed pushed back plans to bring a second vessel into service in the Mediterranean on Dec. 18. The line now is targeting Jan. 15 for the first COVID-era voyage of the 2,550-passenger ship, MSC Magnifica.

The MSC Cruises cancellations came a day after Costa announced it was canceling all sailings from Dec. 20 through Jan. 6. The line restarted limited operations out of Italy on Sept. 6 and has had as many as three ships sailing out of Italy at times over the past three months.

The line plans to restart operations with just a single vessel, Costa Smeralda, on Jan. 7.

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The cancellations at the two lines come in the wake of new COVID-related travel restrictions in Italy announced on Wednesday. The new restrictions include a complete ban on travel between Italian regions from Dec. 21 through Jan. 6. The Italian government also is forbidding its residents from leaving their home towns on Christmas Day, Dec. 26 and New Year's Day.

Related: One of the world's biggest cruise ships has been delayed -- again

The Italian government is hoping that a complete stop of travel over the holiday period, when many Italians have time off from work, will help stop the spread of the new coronavirus in the country. New COVID cases began surging in Italy in early October and remain high, though they have started coming down in recent weeks.

"Costa ... joins the further efforts requested to the country and to all Italians during the next Christmas and New Year holidays by suspending its activities," the line said in a statement.

MSC Cruises and Costa are just the latest lines forced to pull back on efforts to revive cruising due to growing travel restrictions.

Related: Cruise lines tout all-inclusive deals to reignite cruising

More than a half dozen other ocean cruise and river cruise lines that had restarted operations in Europe since the summer have had to cancel sailings in recent weeks due to growing travel restrictions in Germany, France and other European countries.

The travel restrictions have been driven by soaring coronavirus case counts.

River cruising in Europe, which began coming back for locals only in June, has ground to a halt since October.

The reversal of the restart to cruising in Europe in recent weeks comes as cruise lines that operate in North America continue to push out the date when they expect to resume sailings in the region.

Nearly every major cruise line that operates in North America including Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line this week canceled sailings in the region through at least the end of February. Some lines have canceled North American sailings even further into 2021.

All cruise lines around the world halted departures in March as the coronavirus outbreak grew and many have yet to restart operations anywhere in the world. Carnival, Norwegian and Disney are among the lines that haven’t operated a single departure since March.

Related: What we learned from the SeaDream outbreak

Royal Caribbean only has resumed sailings with a single ship, Quantum of the Seas. The vessel began short voyages out of Singapore on Tuesday for local Singapore residents only. Singapore is one of the few places in the world that has almost completely eliminated the new coronavirus.

Due to restrictions imposed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been almost no cruising since March in North America.

In November, a small line that focuses on small-ship cruising, SeaDream Yacht Club, attempted to restart cruises in the Caribbean out of Barbados on a single ship, the 112-passenger SeaDream 1. But its plans were derailed after a COVID outbreak on the first sailing.

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Featured image by Ivan Sarfatti

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  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
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  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023