Cruise ships that restarted in Europe over the summer are shutting back down

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The comeback of cruising that began over the summer in Europe started to stall in October as coronavirus cases surged. And now it’s in full reversal mode.

Two of the biggest lines to restart limited sailings in Europe in recent months — MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises — this week said they would pause all voyages in the coming days due to growing travel restrictions brought on by higher coronavirus case counts.

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MSC Cruises on Friday canceled three departures of the only ship that it currently has operating, MSC Grandiosa, that are scheduled to take place between Dec. 20 and Jan. 10.

The 4,842-passenger cruise ship — one of the world’s largest — had resumed sailings on Aug. 16 out of Genoa, Italy, in what at the time was considered a major milestone in the post-COVID comeback of cruising. MSC Cruises was the first major cruise line to restart sailings in the Mediterranean since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

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MSC Cruises on Friday also pushed pushed back plans to bring a second vessel into service in the Mediterranean on Dec. 18. The line now is targeting Jan. 15 for the first COVID-era voyage of the 2,550-passenger ship, MSC Magnifica.

The MSC Cruises cancellations came a day after Costa announced it was canceling all sailings from Dec. 20 through Jan. 6. The line restarted limited operations out of Italy on Sept. 6 and has had as many as three ships sailing out of Italy at times over the past three months.

The line plans to restart operations with just a single vessel, Costa Smeralda, on Jan. 7.

The cancellations at the two lines come in the wake of new COVID-related travel restrictions in Italy announced on Wednesday. The new restrictions include a complete ban on travel between Italian regions from Dec. 21 through Jan. 6. The Italian government also is forbidding its residents from leaving their home towns on Christmas Day, Dec. 26 and New Year’s Day.

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The Italian government is hoping that a complete stop of travel over the holiday period, when many Italians have time off from work, will help stop the spread of the new coronavirus in the country. New COVID cases began surging in Italy in early October and remain high, though they have started coming down in recent weeks.

“Costa … joins the further efforts requested to the country and to all Italians during the next Christmas and New Year holidays by suspending its activities,” the line said in a statement.

MSC Cruises and Costa are just the latest lines forced to pull back on efforts to revive cruising due to growing travel restrictions.

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More than a half dozen other ocean cruise and river cruise lines that had restarted operations in Europe since the summer have had to cancel sailings in recent weeks due to growing travel restrictions in Germany, France and other European countries.

The travel restrictions have been driven by soaring coronavirus case counts.

River cruising in Europe, which began coming back for locals only in June, has ground to a halt since October.

The reversal of the restart to cruising in Europe in recent weeks comes as cruise lines that operate in North America continue to push out the date when they expect to resume sailings in the region.

Nearly every major cruise line that operates in North America including Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and Disney Cruise Line this week canceled sailings in the region through at least the end of February. Some lines have canceled North American sailings even further into 2021.

All cruise lines around the world halted departures in March as the coronavirus outbreak grew and many have yet to restart operations anywhere in the world. Carnival, Norwegian and Disney are among the lines that haven’t operated a single departure since March.

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Royal Caribbean only has resumed sailings with a single ship, Quantum of the Seas. The vessel began short voyages out of Singapore on Tuesday for local Singapore residents only. Singapore is one of the few places in the world that has almost completely eliminated the new coronavirus.

Due to restrictions imposed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there has been almost no cruising since March in North America.

In November, a small line that focuses on small-ship cruising, SeaDream Yacht Club, attempted to restart cruises in the Caribbean out of Barbados on a single ship, the 112-passenger SeaDream 1. But its plans were derailed after a COVID outbreak on the first sailing.

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Featured image of courtesy of MSC Cruises

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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