Voyages scrapped and new ships delayed as Europe’s lockdowns bite for cruise

Further setbacks in store for troubled cruise industry following months of cautious sailing

Passengers booked on Spirit of Adventure, Saga Cruises’ newest ship which docked at the Essex port of Tilbury last month, will have to wait even longer to set sail.

The vessel had been due to make her inaugural voyage from Southampton on November 5 but that was put back first to February 5, 2021, with a cruise to the Canary Islands.

Now, as England’s second lockdown looms, the British brand has postponed Spirit of Adventure’s inaugural cruise until May 4, 2021.

Saga Cruises boss Nigel Blanks said in a statement: “I recently wrote to you regarding our decision to extend our cruise suspension against the backdrop of the Covid-19 second wave and the fact that most countries around the world are not accepting cruise ships.

“Since then, we have sadly seen the predicted restrictions on day-to-day life increasing. This has led us to further review our planned dates for a return to service, as the seasonal impact of Covid-19 would indicate that we are unlikely to be able to cruise in February on Spirit of Adventure, or March on Spirit of Discovery.

MSC Cruises welcomed passengers back onboard in August following a five-month pause

“I would therefore like to confirm that, following careful consideration, we have taken the very difficult decision to postpone our return to service for Spirit of Discovery until April 2021 and Spirit of Adventure’s inaugural cruise has also been rescheduled and she will now sail for the first time on May 4, 2021. This means that all cruises up to these dates will no longer operate and your cruise will not be going ahead as planned.”

Saga Cruises isn’t alone in its decision to delay returning to sailing until spring 2021. Fellow British favourites Cunard, P&O Cruise and Fred Olsen, have also pushed their restart dates back well into 2021 due to the continued threat of coronavirus.

Cruising had cautiously resumed across continental Europe thanks to the likes of AIDA Cruises, Costa Cruises, and MSC Cruises, who have been demonstrating their new health and safety protocols designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 onboard. However cruise’s successful European comeback has now hit a snag with new lockdown measures.

AIDA Cruises, which had only recently resumed sailings in Italy out of Civitavecchia, has cancelled all voyages until December after Germany put new restrictions in place.

The German cruise operator said: “As a result of Germany implementing far-reaching measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic, AIDA Cruises […] announced it will temporarily pause its cruises for November, cancelling all voyages planned between October 31 and November 30.

“This follows the federal government of Germany’s October 28 decision to impose further restrictions on public life and travel to limit the spread of Covid-19, which AIDA Cruises fully supports.

French river cruise company CroisiEurope, which resumed sailing along France’s River Seine on July 13 and recommenced cruises on the Rhône, Rhine and Loire on July 16, 20 and 31 respectively, is also temporarily withdrawing from the water due to lockdown.

And AIDA’s sister line, Costa Cruises, has  been forced to revise its winter programme. Instead of sailing to Italy, France and Spain on November 14 as originally scheduled, Costa Smeralda will now operate an Italy-only itinerary until the end of February 2021.

As for sister ship Costa Deliziosa, she will scrap scheduled stops in both Montenegro and Croatia – where  Covid infection rates are rising – and continue operating her current one-week itinerary in Italy and Greece until January 3, 2021. Meanwhile Costa Diadema will postpone the start of long cruises in the Mediterranean until April 2021.

In a statement to impacted passengers, Costa Cruises said: “Being responsible is not a choice for us. It represents a pillar we cannot and do not intend to trade off for any reason.”

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