AIDA Cruises to resume operations in August, with new health protocols – but no port calls

Morgan Hines, USA TODAY

German line AIDA Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Corp., announced Thursday that three of its ships would resume operations in August, ending a coronavirus pandemic-induced hiatus that began in March. Unsurprisingly, sailing will look a little different, with new health and hygiene protocols but no port calls – at least not at first.

"We are taking a measured approach with a few initial ships within our AIDA line in Germany," Roger Frizzell, Carnival Corp. spokesperson, told USA TODAY. "We have been leveraging medical and science advisors, but this will helps us gain additional insight with the initial protocols being put in place."

AIDA's first ship to hit the high seas once again will be its AIDAperla, which will sail from Hamburg on Aug. 5, according to a release shared by Frizzell.

A week after AIDAperla makes her return, AIDAmar will sail from the Baltic port of Warnemünde near Rostock on Aug. 12. AIDAblu will follow on Aug. 16, sailing from Kiel. Bookings for the three sailings were opened to the public on Thursday.

To ensure passengers' onboard safety, AIDA worked with authorities to create new health standards including regional and national government authorities in Germany, that country's public health instituteand the World Health Organization, according to Frizzell. The revamped health protocol begins during the booking process, through preparation for cruising, and continues through embarkation, the voyage, disembarkation and the return of passengers to their homes. 

"We have been consulting and assembling the best minds in medical science, public health and infectious disease control," Frizzell added.

The AIDA health protocol is in accordance with the EU Healthy Gateways guidance, which was released last week. 

Face masks, COVID-19 screening:  EU issues guidelines for return to cruising amid pandemic

Some of the measures AIDA is taking include:

  • A digital health questionnaire to be completed ahead of the scheduled cruise

  • Temperature checks prior to check in for passengers and crew

  • Physical distancing guidelines

  • Routing systems for arrival and departure on board to minimize large gatherings

  • Managing capacity at onboard venues including restaurants, theaters, sports and wellness facilities and bars

  • Increased cleaning and disinfection in public areas and cabins

  • Hand sanitizer available at check in and on board

Medical care will be available to passengers and crew members 24 hours per day and coronavirus test kits and other "diagnostic devices" will be available on board. 

Should a passenger or crew member be diagnosed with COVID-19, AIDA has developed a protocol to facilitate medical care, safe disembarkation and a return home. Frizzell added that AIDA ships will have access to shoreside medical facilities and hospitals, if necessary.

To ensure space for physical distancing between people onboard, AIDA will operate at a limited passenger capacity during their restart.

German quality-assurance firm SGS Institut Fresenius will check on AIDA's implementation of hygiene standards and COVID-19 prevention, according to the release. 

Looking ahead, the cruise line said that it may add foreign destinations if and when ports in other European countries open. And assuming there are no setbacks like the COVID-19 surges prompting several U.S. states to dial back their reopenings, the cruise line could gradually return to its originally-scheduled itineraries.

While AIDA will restart operations next month, the line maintains that it won't sail to ports in the U.S. or Canada for the remainder of 2020. 

Carnival Corp.'s other eight brands, including flagship Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises, Costa Cruises, Seabourn and Cunard are set to remain on pause for the time being, according to Frizzell, who noted that "the timeframe for restart in the U.S. has not been determined."

Members of the industry's leading trade group, the Cruise Lines International Association, have voluntarily suspended U.S. operations through Sept. 15.

Royal Caribbean, Norwegian: Cruise lines create panel to make cruising safe from coronavirus

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: AIDA Cruises to return to sea in August without port calls

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