In another milestone for the cruise industry, Carnival Corporation’s AIDA cruise line is set to return to sailing today, months after it suspended sailings in the wake of coronavirus. The line’s first trip back departs today aboard AIDAblu from Civitavecchia, Italy, on a week-long trip.
The cruise line will return with only the single ship for the time-being as it looks to come back using a phased-in approach.
While AIDA is not the first cruise line to return to sailing Europe — or even the first Carnival brand to return to sailing the continent — it is noteworthy as another step in cruises eventually returning to normal service.
Thus far, major cruise lines like MSC and Carnival’s Costa have already started back cruising from Italy, a country that was among the hardest hit during the health crisis. Costa already has three ships back sailing since starting again in September.
“The resumption of sailing from AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises is part of a gradual, phased-in approach by Carnival Corporation to restart operations regionally with limited itineraries, adjusted passenger capacity and enhanced health protocols developed in coordination with government and health authorities to follow shoreside mitigation guidelines,” the company said in a statement.
And while COVID continues to spread around the world — including a recent spike in Italy — new policies in place on cruise ships seem to be working.
These new policies include all passengers and crew being tested for COVID before boarding, temperature checks, social distancing, facemasks, and limited capacity on the ship. Other efforts seen on the ships are increased sanitation and even guided shore excursions for passengers that meet the health requirements seen on the ship.
For cruisers in the United States, the return of multiple lines in Europe offers important insight for cruise lines on how to keep passengers safe. In effect, the ships set the roadmap for how to return safely and also show authorities if the measures implemented can keep passengers healthy.
AIDA’s restart comes during an especially critical time. COVID cases in Italy have spiked sharply in recent weeks, peaking above where they were in March. Fortunately, the deaths associated with this sharp rise in cases appears to be drastically lower than during the March spike, at least for the time being.
Even so, with cases rising sharply in the region, all eyes will be on the industry in Europe as more cruise lines like AIDA begin sailing. If during this time cruise lines can continue to keep their passengers safe, it bodes well for the eventual return to sailing in the United States.
The current “No Sail Order” from the CDC in the U.S. is scheduled to end at the end of October.