Ship Captains, start your engines! After a miserable 2020, the global cruise machine is slowly coming back to life, buoyed by positive news on the vaccine front. While there are hurdles yet to overcome, there’s a sense of optimism that hasn’t been felt since the industry was essentially shut down in March.
Here’s a look at a few of the positive developments over the past week that will bring a smile to the faces of cruise lovers eager to feel the sea breeze on their faces once again.
Vaccine Success Injects Optimism
It has become clear that the world will only return to some semblance of normal once vaccines are developed and made available to control and contain the global health crisis.
In the past, the process of developing vaccines for new viruses has taken years, but an unprecedented global effort has resulted in the rapid development of several highly promising candidates.
Now, the focus is on ramping up production and distribution of the billions of doses that will be required. It’s a huge job, but some nations, including the U.S., are expected to start offering vaccinations as soon as December.
That was the game-changing development that industry-watchers have been waiting for, and cruise line stocks took off on the news.
Good News On The Horizon
The Carnival Horizon returned to Miami early Monday morning to prepare for its return to service. Completed in 2017, the 3,960-passenger Horizon is the first Carnival Cruise Line vessel scheduled to return to sailing under new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last month, we reported that Carnival Horizon was in St. Maarten welcoming crew back to the ship. In the weeks since then, crew members underwent a mandatory quarantine before the ship was able to return to the United States.
Now the work begins to implement the measures outlined in the Conditional Sail Order set by the CDC. Carnival Horizon will have to expand its medical facilities, dedicate certain cabins as isolation units, make airflow modifications, and arrange public areas with social distancing in mind.
UK Looks To Get Underway
Across the pond, despite a recent surge in cases that spurred regional lockdowns and travel restrictions, the UK is preparing for the resumption of cruises from its ports.
The recently published Global Travel Taskforce report backed a phased resumption of cruising, but said the restart had been delayed following “a significant rise in Covid-19 cases in the UK and abroad.”
The report says the UK government will consider easing guidance against cruising when the national COVID-19 level is at level 3 and heading towards level 2. When permitted, cruises are likely to begin with UK round-trip itineraries for UK residents only.
The UK Chamber of Shipping and Cruise Lines International Association have called on politicians to issue a clear timeline for the resumption of cruising, starting with domestic cruises in early 2021, followed by international itineraries to destinations with travel corridors in the spring.
Aussies To Explore Own Backyard With Carnival
In Australia, as in the UK, close-to-home cruises targeting domestic travelers make sense as a lower-risk restart option for the cruise industry.
Carnival Cruise Line recently announced that it has converted 30 percent of its international 2021 itineraries to Australia and New Zealand-based cruises, offering Aussies more opportunities to see their big, beautiful country by sea and further support local tourism.
Jennifer Vandekreeke, VP and GM Australia, Carnival Cruise Line, said: “As Australians, we have become increasingly appreciative of our beautiful home and we are looking to explore our backyard more than ever. We are so incredibly lucky to have this beautiful part of the world as our playground and there’s no better way to explore the beauty of Australia than by sea.”
Canary Islands Are Singing For AIDA
AIDA Cruises, Germany’s leading cruise line and one of the many cruise brands of Carnival Corporation, has announced that it will begin offering cruises in the Canary Islands on December 5, 2020.
AIDA will open its Canary Islands cruise season with AIDAperla, followed by AIDAmar, which will start its winter season with a Christmas voyage departing December 20. Both ships will offer seven-night roundtrip voyages around the Atlantic Ocean islands from Gran Canaria.
The Spanish government adopted clear regulations for safe travel in the Canaries in November, which AIDA says are in line with its established hygiene and prevention measures.
Those health and safety protocols include measures such as free testing before the voyage, secure arrival and departure, enhanced medical care onboard, distance regulations and increased disinfection measures on board, as well as guided shore excursions.
Wave Of Momentum Builds
There are sure to be more bumps in the road — rogue waves might be a better analogy — as the cruise industry revs back up. In fact, there already have been. But as events of the past week have shown, momentum is growing for a slow but steady return of cruising as the vacation of choice for millions of travelers around the world.