The world’s largest cruise line is finally restarting operations in Europe

Jul 8, 2021

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Royal Caribbean finally restarted sailings in North America last month, and now it’s resuming operations in Europe, too.

The world’s largest cruise line on Wednesday launched its first sailing out of Southampton, England, in more than a year, and it’s starting up operations out of Limassol, Cyprus, on Saturday.

The Wednesday sailing out of Southampton was a four-night voyage to local U.K. ports on Royal Caribbean’s 4,180-passenger Anthem of the Seas. It’s the first of a series of four-, five- and eight-night summer sailings out of Southampton that only are open to U.K. residents.

The voyages bring stops at ports around the British Isles including Liverpool, England; Belfast, Northern Ireland; and Kirkwall, Scotland.

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The sailings out of Limassol will take place on Royal Caribbean’s 2,191-passenger Jewel of the Seas and be seven nights in length. They’ll focus on destinations in Greece including Piraeus (the port for Athens) and the Greek islands of Rhodes, Crete, Mykonos and Santorini.

The trips out of Limassol, which are open to all travelers, are the first that Royal Caribbean has offered out of Cyprus in its 52-year history. They were arranged at a time earlier this year when few countries around the world were welcoming back cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean operated a short, two-night preview sailing out of Limassol on Tuesday that officially marked the line’s first-ever sailing from Cyprus.

Royal Caribbean’s Anthem of the Seas began sailing out of Southampton, England, on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Royal Caribbean shut down operations worldwide in March 2020 after the COVID-19 outbreak was declared a pandemic, and the majority of its 25 vessels remain on hiatus. The line resumed sailings out of Singapore for local residents only in December with a single ship. But for many months, that was its only ship back in operation.

Royal Caribbean resumed Caribbean cruises on June 12 with sailings on a single ship, Adventure of the Seas, operating out of Nassau in the Bahamas. A second Royal Caribbean vessel, Freedom of the Seas, resumed sailings out of Miami on July 2. And a third Royal Caribbean ship, Odyssey of the Seas, is scheduled to start up Caribbean sailings on July 31.

Royal Caribbean was the first major line to restart cruises in North America, but it isn’t the first line to restart voyages in Europe. Europe-based MSC Cruises has been operating cruises in the Mediterranean with a single ship since August 2020 and now has several vessels sailing in Europe.

Europe-based Costa Cruises also was relatively early in restarting Mediterranean sailings with a handful of vessels, and Celebrity Cruises just resumed European sailings with one ship on June 26.

Still, most cruise ships that normally sail in Europe remain paused for now. Cruise lines have said they are taking a go-it-slow approach to restarting operations due in part to the logistical challenges of starting up many cruise ships at once.

The resumption of operations at Royal Caribbean and other lines is happening as COVID-19 case counts in many countries fall and COVID-19 vaccination levels rise.

Passengers over the age of 18 on Royal Caribbean’s new U.K. sailings must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to sail. Children under the age of 18 can sail with a negative COVID-19 test result.

Passengers over the age of 18 on Royal Caribbean’s Cyprus sailings also must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to sail. Non-vaccinated vacationers between the ages of 12 and 18 must provide a negative PCR test results taken within 72 hours of arrival in Cyprus to sail. All passengers over the age of 2 must participate in complimentary testing on the day of boarding.

The testing requirements differ between the two sets of sailings due to different local regulations.

Royal Caribbean plans to add a third ship — the 5,479-passenger Harmony of the Seas — back to operations in Europe on Aug. 15. It’ll sail in the Mediterranean out of Barcelona.

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Featured image of courtesy of Royal Caribbean.

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