The (first) ship has sailed.
A German vessel operated by travel giant TUI Cruises, is testing the cruise industry waters as it becomes the first large cruise ship to resume operations, following months of shutdowns amid the coronavirus pandemic.
According to German public broadcaster DW, the Mein Schiff 2 (My Ship 2), set sail late Friday night from the northern city of Hamburg.
“Today it finally starts again,” the company wrote in an Instagram post ahead of the departure. “Mein Schiff 2 is ready and so are we.”
The ship sailed toward Norway for a three-night scenic cruise in the North Sea. Without stopping at any other ports, it’s scheduled to return to Germany on Monday morning.
The German news agency DPA reported that the massive ship, which usually has a capacity of 2,900 travelers, is carrying 1,200 guests.
The company said that 1,740 people (or 60% of capacity) would be allowed to travel, but the quota wasn’t met.
It was not reported the number of crew on board.
A series of modifications were implemented as safety precautions against the spread of the new coronavirus, such as face masks requirement and proper social distancing.
Passengers and crew members are required to stay at least five feet apart from one another. Guests were also asked to fill a health questionnaire before boarding the ship.
Additionally, the ship changed how passengers eat their meals: guests will be served at the buffet table, instead of helping themselves.
According to Cruise Industry News magazine, TUI Cruises has plans to resume operations on another ship, the Mein Schiff 1, next month.
After months of shutdowns, the German cruise ship industry is betting on shorter trips to help reignite the business, which was badly affected by the ongoing coronavirus crisis.
The Western European nation of 83 million has been widely seen as a success in the fight against COVID-19. with just over 206,000 cases and 9,201 fatalities, about one-fifth of the death toll in the U.K.
On Saturday, however, a senior German state politician warned about “the second coronavirus wave [which] is already here.”
Michael Kretschmer, the minister president of the eastern state of Saxony, told a local paper that, “We have new clusters of infection every day which could become very high numbers,” DW reported.