The Baltic is becoming the latest region to prepare for the return of cruises operated by the large cruise ships this summer. With the lowering of restrictions in northern Germany and an expectation that ports in Scandinavia will follow, MSC Cruises announced plans to begin weekly Baltic cruises starting on July 3. While the program is expected to be limited in scope, it would still mark the first large cruise ship to resume sailing n the region with port calls and available to travelers from most European countries.
MSC Cruises said that its 154,000 gross ton cruise ship the MSC Seaview would begin offering weekly cruises from Kiel, Germany to Sweden and Estonia beginning on July 3. The vessel, which will sail from Kiel until September, is scheduled to make calls at Visby on the Swedish island of Gotland, Nynashamn where passengers will travel to Stockholm, and Tallinn, Estonia. MSC Cruises said that it will monitor the situation ashore at the destinations where the MSC Seaview is scheduled to call and may adjust the itinerary based on developments.
To meet the anticipated travel restrictions, MSC will include protected shore excursions requiring passengers to only go ashore on the organized tours and remain in a safety bubble to limit potential exposure to the virus. The cruises will be available for guests of all ages from the Schengen area in Europe, plus residents of Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria.
Passengers sailing on the cruises will be required to take a test for the virus at embarkation and again mid-week during the cruise. Crew members will also be tested weekly for the virus. The steps, which are the same as those MSC has been using for its cruises from Italy, also include requirements for social distancing and the use of face coverings in public spaces.
According to the company, the MSC Seaview’s Baltic Sea cruises are another step in its plans for a return to sea for its fleet of ships. The MSC Grandiosa and MSC Seaside are currently sailing from Italy to the West Mediterranean and will be joined in August by a third ship, the MSC Seashore. The MSC Virtuosa is scheduled to begin cruising as part of the U.K.’s permission to start domestic cruises for U.K. residents. However, with travel restrictions still in place for the German ports of Warnemünde and Hamburg, MSC announced it is canceling summer cruise programs for two of its ship, the MSC Preziosa and MSC Musica.
In the summer and fall of 2020, Hapag-Lloyd resumed cruises in the Baltic aboard two of its smaller, luxury ships and was permitted to offer limited port calls. However, TUI’s larger cruise ships were only able to offer sea cruises from Germany starting in July 2020. Those trips sailed in the Stockholm Archipelago and near the coast of Finland but did not permit passengers to go ashore. AIDA had planned to offer similar sea cruises but did not sail in 2020.
Both AIDA and TUI recently announced that with the lowering of restrictions in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein that they would resume short sea cruises from Kiel. AIDA’s cruise ship the AIDASol is scheduled to begin cruising on May 22 and TUI’s Mein Schiff 1 will start the following day. Both lines have said they would monitor the situation in the Baltic and hoped to begin offering port calls during the summer.
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