Greece is the word when it comes to the comeback of cruising this summer

Apr 28, 2021

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Desperate to take a cruise in the coming months? Here’s our advice: Get ready to get yourself to Greece.

While cruising is about to start back up in a small way out of ports as far-flung as Nassau in the Bahamas and Southampton in the United Kingdom, it’s looking increasingly like Greece is going to be the big hub for the initial comeback of summer cruising.

In just the last month:

  • Luxury line Silversea announced it would resume sailings on 18 June with a single ship sailing out of Piraeus, Greece (the port for Athens). The trips will take place on the 596-passenger Silver Moon and be the line’s first in 15 months.
  • Luxury line Seabourn has announced its cruising comeback would begin on 3 July with a series of Greek Island sailings out of Piraeus. The trips will take place on the 600-passenger Seabourn Ovation and be the line’s first in 16 months.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line has announced it would resume operations on 25 July with a single vessel, the 2,200-passenger Norwegian Jade, sailing to the Greek Islands out of Piraeus. The world’s fourth-largest cruise line also said two more of its ships would begin Caribbean sailings out of Montego Bay, Jamaica, and La Romana, in the Dominican Republic, come August. Norwegian hasn’t operated a departure since March 2020.

Also putting Greece at the centre of its comeback plans is MSC Cruises. The world’s third-largest cruise line on Thursday said it planned to start cruises to Greece out of Italian ports with three ships — MSC Orchestra, MSC Splendida and MSC Magnifica — on 5 June, 12 June and 20 June, respectively.

MSC Cruises already has restarted operations with a single ship sailing out of Italy to Italian ports and plans to add additional ships in the Western Mediterranean and Northern Europe, too, in the coming months.

Other lines that have announced plans in recent weeks to start up sailings in Greece in the coming months include Celebrity Cruises, Celestyal Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Costa Cruises, Aida Cruises, TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.

The announcements come as Greece moves forward aggressively with a plan to reopen widely to tourists in advance of the summer travel season. The plan includes a reopening to cruises at a level not seen in most of the world.

Greece relies heavily on tourism for revenue, and tourism officials in the country have been clear that restarting tourism of all kinds, including cruises, is critical to the country’s financial wellbeing.

In a statement last month announcing the restart of Celebrity sailings in the country, Greek tourism minister Haris Theocharis said Greece was eager for travellers to return.

The Celebrity Cruises ship Celebrity Apex is scheduled to start cruising from Piraeus, Greece, in June. (Photo courtesy of Celebrity Cruises)

“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 was one of the first lines to announce a restart of cruising in Greece with plans to begin sailings out of Piraeus on 19 June. The line is deploying its newest ship, the 2,908-passenger Celebrity Apex, to the country for voyages to multiple Greek Islands as well as Cyprus and Israel.

Cruise line executives such as Celebrity president and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo have praised Greece’s leaders for allowing them to restart operations in the country.

Greece’s openness to a resumption of cruising in the coming months is in contrast to the resistance that officials in some other countries, including Canada and the United States, have expressed to the idea of a cruising comeback.

“This is a very special homecoming for Celebrity Cruises made possible with the strong collaboration of the Greek government,” Lutoff-Perlo said at the time its new Greece sailings were announced. “I extend my enduring gratitude.”

In most cases, the new Greece cruises that lines plan to operate in coming months are open to travellers from all countries. One exception are voyages to the Greek Islands that Royal Caribbean plans to begin out of Haifa, Israel, in May. The trips only will be open to residents of Israel.

Royal Caribbean plans to begin a second set of cruises to the Greek Islands out of Cyprus on 10 July that will be open to all nationalities.

The push to restart cruising in Greece comes despite a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country since January. In the last week, Greece has averaged around 2,800 new COVID-19 cases a day, nearly six times the amount seen in mid-January.

The cruise lines that have announced plans to restart Greece sailings in the coming months have said they would implement a long list of new health measures including, in many cases, a requirement that passengers be fully vaccinated to cruise.

The lines note that cruise ships that have restarted operations in recent months with similar measures have operated without incident.

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Featured image courtesy of Celebrity Cruises. 

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