(1:05 p.m. EDT) -- After a nearly three month pause because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, cruising has restarted -- but only in Germany, with half the usual passengers onboard.
Nicko Cruises, a German domestic line using ships chartered from Scylla, boarded 110 passengers yesterday on NickoVision and set sail at 5.30 p.m. CEST (11.30 a.m. EDT) today for a 13-day voyage along the Danube and the Rhine.
If all goes well, A-ROSA, another German line will restart on June 17 on the Douro river and Scylla’s sister brand VIVA will restart in July. Scylla also charters vessels to Tauck, although that American line still has cruises on hold until August 1.
The moves come as central Europe gradually starts to re-open, with the threat of COVID-19 -- which led to the suspension of all cruising worldwide in mid-March -- recedes in the area.
Arno Reitsma, Scylla CEO and owner, said: “In the past months, our ships have been on 'pause' but our company hasn’t. Scylla has been working as one team to adapt our operations to the new reality.
“We are delighted to see that today these efforts are paying off. Guests are boarding again and are ready to start rediscovering the wonderful places along the European waterways.
“It is in our DNA to pioneer when it comes to new innovations and evolutions in the river cruising business, and so are we at this moment.
“A starting point has been created, and we can’t wait to further scale up our activities soon.”
For the 110 passengers onboard the two-year-old ship the cruise experience will be very different from pre the coronavirus outbreak.
Scylla has outlined a long list of stringent health protocols both pre-cruise and onboard including: no use of elevators, mandatory mask wearing, social distancing, daily temperature checks, no public toilets, a doctor onboard, no newspapers and umbrellas and no buffet, amongst many others.
Other European river cruise lines including Uniworld, CroisiEurope and Avalon Waterways, have also outlined tough new health protocols. It's unlikely that Americans will be traveling to Europe until later this year, however, because of travel restrictions and the continuing pandemic spread in the U.S.
Within the U.S., American Queen Steamboat Company and American Cruise Lines -- which hopes to be the first to restart on June 20, sailing the Snake and Columbia rivers in the Pacific Northwest -- have also released increased sanitation and health measures.
A number of ocean cruise lines including Norwegian, Princess and Regent, have outlined their health and safety protocols, but their return to sail dates are not until August and beyond. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has yet to release the requirements that ocean ships carrying more than 250 passengers and crew must meet.