Greece is opening up to cruise tourism as of this Saturday, Tourism Minister Haris Theocharis indicated, confirming the reopening of six cruise ports, even though the international cruise industry has ground to a halt.
Responding to a question by Kathimerini, a ministry official said that the ports of Piraeus, Iraklio, Corfu, Rhodes, Katakolo and Volos will only accept cruise liners if all passengers on board have had a negative test at least 72 hours before boarding, while random tests will also be carried out.
Crucially, after the inspection process is completed at any of those six ports, the same cruise liners will be allowed to call at other ports, including more Greek islands. However, market sources say that most cruise operators have suspended their activity – in some cases for the entire 2020 – so expectations about arrivals are from minimal to zero. In any case, many observers consider the move quite risky.
The ministry said that Theocharis informed the Cruise Liners International Association (CLIA) and the three major operators active in Greece (MSC Cruises, Costa, TUI Cruises) in a letter that as of Saturday they may call at the above six ports, followed by other ports too. The minister clarified that this system will change only in case of changes to the course of the pandemic.
“All cruise ships are welcome in Greece, so as to offer a unique experience to all their passengers,” Theocharis wrote in his letter. He added that “Greece is the first country to respond to the cruise sector, introducing health protocols especially for this form of tourism. The health procedures that will apply on cruise ships under the supervision of the Greek authorities are based on EU Healthy Gateways standards and adjusted to Greek legislation and the local conditions.”
On the occasion of the industry’s reopening, the minister also called on operators to resume homeporting activities in Greece and added that the season is extended to year-end.