two weeks ago i went for my first cruise after the corona-break. The german-market-focussed cruise line TUI cruises offers 7-night cruises from Heraklion(Crete) to Piraeus and Corfu. As the price for these cruises are very attractive for solo travellers i could not resist.
Due to the current Covid-19 situation there were some changes in the usual processes. First of all it was mandatory to use the flights offered by the shipping line.these flight were included in the price and were full-charter flights( TUI also has an own airline,called TUIfly). Secondly only excursions offered by the cruise line were allowed. It was not allowed to leave the ship individually.
After the flight arrived at Heraklion airport and before entering the terminal building some officers checked the QR code of each passenger.
To enter greece it is currently necessary to fill out a registration form latest 24 hours before arrival in greece. You have to answer a lot of questions and once you did it you send the registration application to the greek authorities. In the night before the arrival day in greece a mail with a QR code is sent to the registered person. This QR code needs to be presented at the arrival before entering the terminal building.
After getting the luggage the next step was to board one of the many busses that brings you to the ship. After arrival at the cruise terminal there was a short waiting time inside the bus cause the number of people inside the terminal "building"(it can hardly be called building) was restricted. Inside the terminal building there was the usual security checkpoint with metal scanners and a body temperature check area.the whole thing only took approx. 5 Minutes.
During the whole process (flight, shuttle to the port,security check) it was mandatory to wear a mask.
To get on board of the ship you only needed the printed boarding pass(which you recieved after completing the online check-in latest 3 days before embarkation). You showed the boarding pass, a icture was taken and then you could enter the ship. The cabin card was placed at your cabin door. So the whole embarktion process was done almost completely contactless.
On board almost all facilities were opened as usual.(except the disco and the teens club(which was closed due to no teenagers on board)). It was mandatory to wear a mask on the cabin hallways, in the elevators and at all "places,where the minimum distance of 1,5 meters is impossible". In practice almost all passengers wore a mask anytime they were inside the ship. When sitting at the table in the bars or restaurants or at your seat in the entertainment spots it was allowed to remove the mask. The buffet restaurant was opened but without self serice. Behind every buffet there was a crew member,you just told the crew member what you want to eat and they put it on a plate for you anf handed over the plate to you.
Masks were also mandatory when ordering a drink at the outside bars.
Of course it was mandatory t keep a distance of 1,5 meters at all times. But this was not too difficult cause the ship was not fully booked. the regular capacity of the Mein Schiff 6 lies between 2550 passengers(double occupancy) and 2810 passengers(max. capacity). But on my trip there were only 934 passengers on board. ;)
The crew was fantastic and absolutely professional. All crew members were wearing masks at all times and no matter at whiich bar, in which restaurant or which entertainment area you sat down, there was almost always immediately a crew member asking for your cabin number. so the cruise line knew exactly where i have been at which time of the day. This has the very big advantage that in the unlikely case of one infection on board they don`t need to put all guests in qurantine but only the guests which were near the infected person for long enough.
After starting from Heraklion port on sunday at 10 pm it was planned to have a sea day and be in Piraeus on tuesday early morning. On the sea day the captain made a trip into the bay of the island of Milos.It wasn`t that spectacular but a nice bonus. In the afternoon of that day the captain informed all passengers that the laboratory in greece found 12 crew members to be tested positive. these crew members were put in quarantine immediately and re-tested by the ships doctor again.
The captain mentioned almost right from the beginning that they assume these positive results are a mistake. Cause the 12 crew members are working in 12 different departments throughout the complete ships and haven`t met during the last weeks. And only one person per department was tested positive,all other crew members of the same department were negative. So this was very likely a mistake.
they checked it with the greek authorities and they gave the order to come to Pireaus as planned and then these 12 crew members would be tested again by the greek authorities. At the end it turned out that all 12 crew members were not infected and everybody was allowed to leave the ship. At that time it was already noon and so it was clear that none of the originally planned excursions by the shipping line could be organized. Thats why the captain decided to stay in Piraeus port one day longer and on the next day all the planned excursions could be offered.
So all passengers could see what they have planned to see. For me personally this was a nice move by the captain.
I decided to make an excursion to the corinth canal.It is approx. 75 Minutes drive from the port. Then we boarded a small boat and went through the canal in both directions. the whole trip took approx. one hour and was really impressive !
After that the bus made a short stop near one of the bridges over the canal and we could jump out of the bus and make a picture from above.
Then we went back to the ship.
The next day was another sea day to Corfu. We reached Corfu in time.On that day i made an excursions to the palace of the austrian empress Sissi and the city of Corfu itself. Although it was mandatory to wear the mask in the bus, in the palace and even outside in the gardens It was still nice.
On all the excursions the number of guests per bus was between 23 and 26.
Based on the original itinerary we had two sea days to get from Corfu back to Crete. But due to the additional day in Piraeus we only had one sea day. So there wasn`t any more time for some additional panoramic views of some greek islands...at least thats what we thought ! But the captain showed us what his ship could do and directly after leaving Corfu raced with 19 knots to show us the island of santorin. So on Saturday around 6:15 pm we reach the caldera of santorin in perfect light of the sunset.
The ship entered the caldera,stayed there for approx. 20 Minutes, made a 20-minute-long 360-degree rotation and then moved on to Crete where we arrived on Sunday morning at 6:00 am well in time.
All passengers were really happy that the captain decided to stay longer in Piraeus and still to go to Santorin.
On disembarkation day you could stay on board until the shuttle bus for your flight brought you to the airport. Unfortunately the latest shuttle bus leaft at 11:30 am.This was necessary so that the ship could be cleanded completely and prepared intensely for the next passengers. As my flight to Frankfurt only departed at 5:40 pm and the airport of Heraklion is VERY small i decided to take another excursion to the excavation site of Knossos and the city of Heraklion.
This excursion ended at the airport roughly 3,5 hours before the departure at the airport. After a stressful check-in (the airport was really crwded, and currently they only have 40% of the usual amount of guests.I don`t wanna know how crowded the airport will be at 100% ) i finally reached frankfurt airport at 8:15 pm.
I was really happy to have done this cruise. It was the most relaxed cruise i ever did and i would do it again right away. The crew was fantastic and did EVERYTHING to make the guests happy. But i also have to say that the passengers were also fantastic. I never had so many disciplined passengers on board of a cruise ship. EVERYBODY followed the rules to 100%.
To be honest i do have heavy doubts if the passengers of a 5-day cruise out of Miami on a US-based cruise ship would be that disciplined as well.
Attached you will find some pictures of Santorin, Knossos and the corinth canal
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