Celebrity Cruises unveils plans to tiptoe back into Europe sailings

Mar 26, 2021

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Celebrity Cruises is joining the list of major cruise lines planning to restart operations in Europe in the coming months.

The Miami-based brand on Thursday announced it would resume Eastern Mediterranean sailings in June with a single ship sailing out of Athens, Greece.

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Celebrity said its newest vessel, the 2,900-passenger Celebrity Apex, would offer two seven-night itineraries out of Athens starting on 19 June:

  • A Greek Islands and Cyprus itinerary that features stops in the Greek islands of Rhodes, Mykonos and Santorini as well as Cyprus.
  • A Greek Islands and Israel itinerary that features stops in the Greek islands of Rhodes and Santorini, plus a stop in Haifa, Israel, that allows for a visit to Tel-Aviv or Jerusalem.

Celebrity said the trips would be open to travellers from any country, including the United Kingdom. A very limited amount of cruising has restarted in parts of Europe in recent months. But until now, it’s been restricted to locals residents from selected European countries.

The 2,900-passenger Celebrity Apex. (Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

Celebrity said adults would be required to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 to sail on the voyages. Children under the age of 18 will be able to sail with just proof of a negative COVID-19 test. All crew also will be required to have COVID-19 vaccinations to work on the ship.

The line suggested such restrictions could evolve over time.

The announcement comes as Greece prepares to reopen to tourists from all countries around the world by the summer.

It also comes just days after Celebrity announced it would resume sailings in the Caribbean in June with seven-night sailings out of the Dutch side of the island of St. Martin, known as St. Maarten. On those trips, too, adults will be required to have been vaccinated for COVID-19.

Celebrity Cruises is following such major lines as Royal Caribbean and Costa Cruises in saying it would resume sailings in the Eastern Mediterranean in the coming months.

Royal Caribbean recently said it would resume cruises to the Greek islands out of Haifa, Israel, in May — albeit for Israeli residents only. Costa Cruises is planning to resume sailings to the Greek Islands out of Italy in May.

Greek Island cruise specialist Celestyal Cruises also has announced plans to restart cruises in the region in May.

Celebrity hasn’t operated a single cruise departure in more than a year. Like every cruise line in the world, it shut down operations completely in March 2020 after the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic.

In a statement, Celebrity president and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo said Celebrity’s resumption of sailings in Greece was particularly poignant given its origins as a Greece-based company. Celebrity was founded in 1988 in Greece by the country’s Chandris family, and the majority of the deck officers on its ships still hail from Greece.

“Celebrity Apex is such an exquisite ship, and for her to finally begin sailing in the beautiful Aegean, where it all began for our fleet, and after so long away, is incredibly meaningful,” Lutoff-Perlo said.

The newly announced cruises will be the first ever for Celebrity Apex, which was completed more than a year ago but has yet to sail with paying passengers due to the coronavirus crisis.

Lutoff-Perlo also praised the government of Greece for giving clearance for the trips to begin.

“This is a very special homecoming for Celebrity Cruises made possible with the strong collaboration of the Greek government,” she said. “I extend my enduring gratitude and wish them well.”

In a statement accompanying the announcement, Greek tourism minister Haris Theocharis said the country was eager for travellers to return.

“The positive economic impact that tourism brings to our country cannot be underestimated,” Theocharis said. “I am very happy Celebrity Cruises is playing an important role in rebuilding this important economic pillar.”

Celebrity said it would operate the sailings with new onboard health and safety measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, some of which would be announced at a later date.

The line said passengers would have to meet additional requirements being imposed by the government of Greece, which currently include presenting a negative PCR test for COVID-19 taken 72-hours prior to arrival in the country.

The new Celebrity sailings will open for bookings on 30 March.

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Featured image courtesy of Celebrity Cruises 

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