(12:30 p.m. EDT) -- AIDA, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and TUI are all poised to restart cruising this summer from European ports of call, marking a major global milestone for the resumption of mainstream ocean cruising.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises and TUI plan to restart cruising from the port of Hamburg in late July. AIDA, which is owned by Carnival Corporation & plc., will restart its voyages aboard three ships beginning August 5. All vessels across each of the three lines will depart from German ports.
While these three lines primarily target German cruisers, one -- Hapag-Lloyd Cruises -- actively offers international voyages geared to English-speaking travelers aboard its luxury flagship Europa 2 and its new luxury expedition vessel, Hanseatic Inspiration.
The successful resumption of these three brands would mark the first large-scale restart of cruising in Europe after COVID-19 pandemic. began, following the June restarts in Norway by small-ship operators Hurtigruten and SeaDream Cruises.
AIDA will resume sailings beginning August 5 aboard AIDAperla, departing from Hamburg. AIDAmar departs from Warnemünde on August 12 and AIDAblu from the port of Kiel on August 16. Each will operate three-night voyages with no ports of call that offer scenic cruising in the North Sea or Baltic Sea.
Bookings for the new voyages open today. The ships will not be filled to capacity, and AIDA has rolled out a full suite of health and safety protocols to help support what it calls, "with certainty the most beautiful vacation."
Social distancing will be required, and masks are encouraged in all shipboard spaces excluding the vessel's bars, restaurants, fitness center and outdoor areas, much of which will be capacity controlled.
Temperature checks will be enforced at check-in, and hand sanitizing stations will be available throughout the vessel. Public areas and cabins will be sanitized regularly, and each ship will carry its own complement of COVID-19 PCR tests available if needed.
All cabins and public spaces are provided with fresh air.
Other departures outside of these three vessels are still on operational pause until August 31, 2020. The line notes that as regulations are eased throughout Europe and beyond, it may be possible in the future to re-add foreign ports of call.
AIDA is Carnival Corporation's casual, German-language brand that invented the concept of "club cruising" in an informal, relaxed and convivial atmosphere.
Luxury cruise and expedition operator Hapag-Lloyd Cruises will welcome back passengers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland at the end of July, with eight new short itineraries that start and finish in Hamburg.
Sailing aboard Europa 2 and Hanseatic Inspiration, these voyages will operate with 40 percent fewer passengers than normal, for totals between 150 and 300 passengers onboard.
"We have taken extraordinary measures in preparation for this relaunch and are faced with a new travel reality with significantly stricter prevention and hygiene standards. We have taken our time because the safety of our guests and crew and the trust of those in charge of the German ports is very important to us," says Karl J. Pojer, CEO of Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.
"For the relaunch, in accordance with the German authorities, we have agreed to exclusively welcome guests who reside in Germany, Austria and Switzerland on board at first. In the next phase, we will evaluate whether we are able to allow guests who are resident in other countries to travel with us, depending on the development of the infection rate in those countries."
Pojer also notes that each ship will have a "reset day" in between each voyage with no passengers onboard to be used for general cleaning and disinfection of the ship. This is a departure from standard cruise operations, whereby new passengers are ushered onboard on the same day that the vessel's previous passengers disembark. In the days of the early transatlantic ocean liners, a vessel could sit without passengers for several days while the ship was coaled and restocked.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises' relaunch will also be accompanied by a ten-point health and safety plan that includes the elimination of self-service food options; the ability to take meals in cabins; reduced tables and extended operating times in all dining venues; staggered boarding procedures and the use of thermal imaging cameras at embarkation and onboard. Hapag-Lloyd Cruises also notes that its luxury ships thoroughly satisfy the conditions for social distancing, particularly with the reduced passenger count onboard.
Passengers will be provided with face masks to use during embarkation or while using elevators.
TUI Cruises will also restart operations with 40 percent fewer passengers onboard when it resumes sailings on Mein Schiff 2 on July 24 and Mein Schiff 1 in August.
Mein Schiff 2 will sail a three-night weekend voyage roundtrip from Hamburg to the North Sea. A technical stop is made in Kristiansand, Norway, though no passengers will be allowed to disembark. A total of four departures between July 24 and August 3, 2020, leaving on Fridays and Mondays, are available.
TUI notes it has developed a 10-point health and safety plan similar to what is in place with Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, along with strengthening the measures that have always been in place aboard cruise ships.
The August voyages on Mein Schiff 1 will sail from Kiel in August at 60 percent capacity, sailing three- and four-night cruises to nowhere.