The big bet for the cruise industry – Heraklion’s expectations – What passengers need to know

The expectations of Heraklion along with the other major ports of the country

Among the ports that stand out in the planning of companies for homeporting, Heraklion and Corfu have an important position – What a passenger needs to know before boarding

Over 40 cruise ships are scheduled to visit 45 Greek ports between May and November this year, according to figures so far, with optimism for even more encouraging figures as the summer progresses. Aida, Celebrity, Costa, Hapag Lloyd, MSC, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, Silversea and TUI, along with Celestyal Cruises, have planned significant Eastern Mediterranean cruise schedules for this summer season.

Piraeus will be the homeport for cruise ships from Azamara Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Celestyal Cruises, Holland America Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Seabourn Cruises and Silversea Cruises. In fact, Celebrity has chosen Greece’s largest port for the world debut of its newest ship, “CelebrityApex”. Among the ports that stand out in the companies’ homeporting plans, Heraklion, Corfu and katakolon have an important place. To understand the importance of the sector, it is significant that the contribution of cruise shipping to the Greek economy before the pandemic was close to €500 million in annual revenues, providing directly and indirectly almost 12,000 jobs.

What a passenger needs to know

Captain Giorgos Koubenas, operational director of Celestyal Cruises, Optimum Shipmanagement Services S.A and president of the Greek Cruise Ship Owners and Shipping Operators Association, speaking to APE-MPA, explains the procedure that every passenger will follow this year in order to travel on a cruise ship, which makes round trips to Greece. It states that 72 hours before boarding, they must either have been diagnosed negative in a laboratory test for COVID-19 by PCR, have a certificate of vaccination from a public authority and 14 days have passed, or have a coronavirus antibody test. It stresses that, in accordance with the directive of the European Union’s Healthy Gateways programme, coordinated by the University of Thessaly, during embarkation, each passenger will be subjected to an additional rapid test and will have to complete a health declaration in which various information used for health risk assessment will be indicated.

Mandatory thermometry

When passengers board the cruise ship, thermometry is mandatory. In the event that any of the passengers are found to be positive for COVID prior to departure of the cruise ship, they will not be allowed to travel and, if accompanied by family, will have to be taken to a quarantine hotel in accordance with HOSHA guidelines. In accordance with general health protocols, passengers are thermographed daily inside the ship, where automatic thermometry stations are available. There are also warning signs and signage to ensure compliance with hygiene measures, such as masks and frequent hand washing, and in accordance with health protocols, reduced capacity is maintained in all lounges and restaurants on board to maintain spacing and avoid overcrowding. Passengers are served exclusively by crew members at the cruise ship’s buffets and restaurants. It should also be noted that a number of isolation cabins are available as a percentage of the total number of passengers.

Decontamination systems

Koubenas adds that in almost all ships in the present situation there is no air recirculation, namely natural air, after being cooled, enters the system keeping it cool in the cruise ship spaces and is then discharged into the atmosphere. In the case of Celestyal Cruises ships, an “ATMOS” ionization air disinfection system has also been installed for public areas and special filters, HEPA (high efficiency particulate absorption) series, where required. There is also daily disinfection by the ship’s crew in the cabins and in all passenger and crew areas.

The ships’ enhanced medical centres with the ability to perform molecular (PCR) tests and the training of all personnel are important factors for the safety and hygiene of passengers and crew.

“Bubble and green cruises

Each cruise company applies its own policy, within the framework of the approved protocols, regarding the handling of passengers in the ports it visits. As industry executives tell APE-MPA, this summer season will start with two types of cruises, the “bubble” and the “green” cruises. On ‘green’ or ‘green’ cruises, all passengers and crew will be vaccinated against COVID-19 and will be able to move freely in the ports where the ship calls, observing all the health protocols laid down.

On cruises where the “safe bubble” has been adopted, even vaccinated passengers will only be allowed to go down to their destinations following organised excursions planned by the ship.

Some companies also have an even stricter policy, which includes compulsory vaccination of all passengers and the obligation to follow the ship’s organised excursions.

Preparation of ports

The preparation of ports to handle ships and deal with any outbreaks is also important. For this purpose, ports are divided into three categories: home ports, contingency ports and ports of call (transit ports).

If there are more than three unrelated incidents on board the ship, then, after the case has been examined by a special committee, the ship may be asked to return to the port of embarkation. Ports of refuge can accommodate possible isolated outbreaks, whereas ports of call do not have the infrastructure to receive any outbreaks.

Resumption of Celestyal Cruises operations

“Greek cruise operations have resumed since 12 June. We are proceeding with the safe restart of our activities this summer and more specifically on June 12 we started with the “Celestyal Crystal” which is home porting from the ports of Piraeus and Lavrio with a 7-night cruise,” says the company’s operational director, Captain George Koubenas. The cruise ship visits Patmos, Rhodes, Santorini, Mykonos, Mykonos, Milos and Agios Nikolaos in Lasithi.

On 28 June, the cruise ship “Celestyal Olympia” will depart from the port of Lavrio, which will operate cruises under the name “Mythical Archipelagos” and will visit Thessaloniki, Mykonos, Santorini, Agios Nikolaos, Rhodes and Limassol in Cyprus, while it will make return departures from the port of Lavrio until 30 August. There will also be embarkation and disembarkation at the port of Thessaloniki. From 30 August and for the rest of the tourist season, the “Celestyal Olympia” will operate three and four-night cruises – “Aegean Icons” and “Icons of Exploration” – from the port of Lavrio. Those embarking and disembarking in Thessaloniki will also have the opportunity to visit Athens.

THE RECAPITULATION

The firsts at the port of Piraeus

The big bet for the recovery of the cruise industry for 2021 has already begun, with the port of Piraeus once again taking the lead in the Eastern Mediterranean, since, according to industry executives, the “competitor” Caribbean still remains “closed” due to the coronavirus pandemic. The effort is taking place in an unfavourable environment due to the uncertainty created by the pandemic, but on the positive side, foreign tourists’ love for Greece remains.

More than 40 cruise ships with at least 450 arrivals will welcome the port of Piraeus for this season, while the debut for this tourist season has already taken place with two cruise ships, the “Mein Schiff 5”, with about 1,000 passengers, and the “Costa Luminosa” with 600 passengers. The port of Piraeus, in cooperation with the competent authorities, is, according to cruise operators, a model for the safe passage of passengers and the observance of sanitary measures, serving all the cruise ships that have requested to visit it. At the same time, both in the major port and in other ports, there is mobility in order to implement all the provisions of the relevant health protocols.

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