(10:30 a.m. EDT) -- Carnival Corp.-owned AIDA has brought forward its planned restart date in the Mediterranean from November 1 to October 17.
The German line will operate AIDAblu from Civitavecchia (for Rome), offering week-long cruises around Italy, calling in at Catania in Sicily, Naples and La Spezia until the end of November.
The ship will oerate a significantly lower capacity and will be open for bookings initially for German speakers only.
The news comes just days after sister brand Costa Cruises made a successful restart of cruising on Costa Deliziosa -- following a strict set of new health protocols, including pre-boarding COVID-19 tests. Another German line -- TUI Cruises -- has also restarted cruising to Greece on Sunday from Italy.
"The current occurrence of COVID-19 infection in Germany and Italy allows us to start cruising as early as next month," a spokeperson confirmed when asked about the earlier start date.
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Following the lead of both Costa and MSC Cruises, which has also restarted cruising in the Med, AIDA will be implementing strict new health protocols. These measures include both the pre-boarding COVID-19 test and only pre-booked ship shore excursions to ensure passengers are kept "in a bubble".
AIDA will also implement regular temperature checks for passengers and crew, physical distancing and enhanced and increased disinfection. Passengers will also be encouraged to wear masks in public spaces.
Regarding buffets, which are popular on AIDA ships, all meals will be table served. The spa will be open, but will have to be pre-booked and capacity restricted; entertainment will run, but initially with no disco or pool parties; pools will be open but with capacity restrictions.
AIDA has changed its start date multiple times, initially hoping to restart from Germany in August with three ships offering "cruises to nowhere", but a coronavirus outbreak amongst crew meant the line had to reschedule.
The line has canceled all voyages with a U.S. or Canadian port call for the remainder of the 2020 season.
In its Q3 earnings forecast earlier this week, Carnival Corp. noted that its regional brands such as Costa and AIDA were key to positioning cruising to restart in a staggered manner. The company faces a third-quarter adjusted net loss of $1.7 billion.