Mein Schiff 2 Completes No-Covid Cruise – Other Cruise News: UnCruise Hopes To Operate First US No-Covid Departure – Hurtigruten Battles The Virus
by Kevin Griffin
This week sees the culmination of a number of efforts to re-start cruising despite the continued presence of the Covid pandemic. The success of the week was a 3-night mini-cruise from Hamburg to the North Sea by TUI Cruises’ 1,200-berth (pre-Covid 2,900) Mein Schiff 2. In North America, hopes are on UnCruise Adventures’ 38-berth (pre-Covid 60) Wilderness Adventurer on an Alaska cruise from Juneau to Glacier Bay. But the loser this week is Hurtigruten’s 350-berth (pre-Covid 530) Roald Amundsen, which had to give up her present summer itineraries because of the appearance of cases of Covid-19 in 36 of her crew, plus five passengers. Several other expedition cruises have also been cancelled on the Fridtjof Nansen and Spitsbergen.
THIS WEEK’S STORY
Mein Schiff 2 Completes No-Covid Cruise
The TUI cruise ship, Mein Schiff 2 took to the North Sea from Hamburg for Norway on Friday, with 1,200 passengers on board. Pre-pandemic, Mein Schiff 2 could accommodate 2,900.
Mein Schiff 2 spent the weekend at sea with no port calls, and docked back in Hamburg late last night.
Occupancy was limited to 60% to ensure that passengers could social distance.
During the sailing, passengers and crew were required to wear protective masks or keep 1.5 metres away from one another, and were prohibited from serving themselves at the ship’s buffet. Diners ordered meals using their smartphones in place of traditional menus.
Passengers were also required to fill out a health questionnaire before boarding and were subjected to coronavirus temperature checks. But at this time passengers are not being tested or asked to obtain Covid-19 tests prior to boarding.
While this approach was successful on this one cruise, where no virus appeared on board, it has not been totally successful.
Cases of Covid-19 have in fact appeared in crew members on three other ships taking part in this German re-start program.
One of these ships was Mein Schiff 2’s twin sister Mein Schiff 1, where five cases were found in arriving new crew.
The other two ships, which had ten cases of Covid-19 among newly-reporting crew, were owned by Carnival affiliate AIDA. From August 5, AIDA’s AIDAperla will sail from Hamburg, AIDAmar from the Baltic port of Rostock on August 12 and a third, AIDAblu, is due to leave leave Kiel on August 16.
The object is to intercept the virus prior to new crew boarding, so the virus is intercepted and does not get on board. But, against passengers not being tested, how successful can this be before an asymptomatic passenger finds his or her way on board undetected.
Notwithstanding this, following its first successful post-pandemic sailing, TUI plans to restart operations on board the second ship, Mein Schiff 1, in early August.
Mein Schiff 2’s triumphant comeback has provided a glimmer of hope for the cruise industry, one of the sectors worst-hit by the corona virus crisis, and other German operations have announced plans to follow suit.
Health and safety protocols have been set in line with recent EU Guidance, meaning, among other things, that passengers can expect shorter cruises, fewer ports of call and activities organised by age groups.
Note: AIDA released the following statement today, August 3, 2020
“Unfortunately, we have to cancel the planned short trips with AIDAperla and AIDAmar with departure dates between August 5 and 12, 2020.”
“After intensive preparations with the support of many national and international authorities and health experts, we have developed comprehensive concepts for the restart and implemented all increased hygiene standards and measures to protect against Covid-19 on board our ships.“
“We very much regret this delay. We would have loved to welcome our guests back on board from August 5, 2020. We assume that we will receive the last formal approval by the flag state Italy in a timely manner.”
OTHER CRUISE NEWS
UnCruise Hopes To Operate First US No-Covid Departure
For the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic shut down cruising worldwide in March, a US-based cruise ship is sailing Alaskan waters.
On Saturday, August 1, Seattle-based UnCruise Adventures sent off its 60-berth expedition cruise ship Wilderness Adventurer from Juneau. She was carrying 38 passengers, a 60% load, along with a crew of 30.
Since Covid-19 put a stop to cruising in March, this is UnCruise’s first cruise of the year, round trip from Juneau to Glacier Bay, with no port calls. Four more cruises are scheduled for the ship as the traditional Alaska cruise season winds down.
Rather than calling at coastal ports, the ship will concentrate on activities such as whale watching, kayaking, landings for hiking and glacier viewing.
Wilderness Adventurer joined the fleet in 2009 and is a pioneer in Alaska.
She was the first ship to undertake early April cruising in Alaska, the first to stay late into October and is the only member of the UnCruise fleet to sail six months of itineraries in the region.
While much of the US cruise industry is on hold until the end of September under the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “No Sail Order,” UnCruise is exempt because the ruling applies only to ships that carry more than 250 passengers and crew. The nine ships in the UnCruise fleet all carry fewer than 100 passengers.
Preparation for the cruise line’s return to service was a difficult and complicated process that took months to complete. Constant communication with government officials, new safety guidelines and updated training protocols were all necessary.
Hurtigruten Battles The Virus
Four foreign nationality crew members on the Norwegian expedition cruise ship Roald Amundsen were diagnosed with Covid-19 after it arrived at the Arctic port of Tromso on Friday.
The affected crew were taken to the University Hospital of North Norway for treatment while the rest of the 160 crew were quarantined on the ship.
The ship’s owner and operator, Hurtigruten, said that it has been in contact with all guests that were on board the Roald Amundsen’s July 17 and 24 departures. Some 209 from the first voyage and 178 guests from the July 24 departure will self-quarantine in line with Norwegian health authority regulations. Five guests have tested positive.
Meanwhile, further tests have uncovered another 32 infections among crew members. Of these, 29 are from the Philippines, and three were from Norway, France, and Germany.
The vessel was due to head to Spitsbergen on Friday afternoon but this trip has now been cancelled. The next scheduled trip of the Roald Amundsen is due to take place next month. The ship was also scheduled to operate four domestic cruises from UK ports next month but these have now been cancelled.
Hurtigruten, had recently announced that it was gradually returning all but two of its sixteen vessels to service by the end of September, with reduced passenger capacity to allow for social distancing. This is in addition to the usual temperature-taking and masking policies. All buffet service has been cancelled and replaced by plated meal service
Hurtigruten has temporarily suspended all expedition sailings on the Roald Amundsen, her sister ship Fridtjof Nansen and the smaller Spitsbergen until further notice.
(Kevin Griffin is managing director of The Cruise People Ltd in London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)