And we were right, with cruise lines such as A-Rosa, Nicko Cruises and CroisiEurope to resume service over the next few weeks. These are the operators which cater to a domestic market in their own countries (Germany, Austria, France) which are already opening for business.
International river cruise operators will resume their European operations somewhat later: they are dependent primarily on the US market, and to an extent on the UK. We have in mind that by September, if not earlier, many of our favourites will be back in action.
We are particularly optimistic about Crystal, whose vessels Bach and Debussy are currently in Arnhem (to the south east of Amsterdam), whilst Mahler and Ravel are in Linz on the Danube. As Crystal were preparing for the 2020 season back in March, they were excited that an amazing 97% of their crew were returning for the new season, quite a tribute to the happy working environment on board these very special ships.
Currently just a skeleton staff are keeping the vessels ticking over, with the full crews standing by in their European homes. Starting up again on a European river is significantly easier than an ocean voyage, for which you have to fly in crew from all around the world.
Provisioning is also local, and Crystal prides itself on it's à la minute food preparation using the very best local produce.
Crystal's initial plans are well underway, and will start with a pre-boarding screening and temperature check in a tent set up on shore. Testing at this time will ensure the coronavirus is not brought on board. As part of the huge Genting group, Crystal is learning much from the robust measures being introduced by their colleagues in Asia, who are already resuming ocean operations.
River cruise vessels tend to be of a uniform size - as large as they can be whilst still able to enter the locks and fit beneath the bridges. Whilst these long ships, as they are known, can accommodate as many as 200 guests, Crystal's vessels are limited to a capacity of just 106, which means that many of the measures other lines will need to introduce are already part and parcel of Crystal's operations. With 140 restaurant seats and a variety of dining venues, setting up social distancing for meals will not be a huge challenge.
Likewise, Crystal's fleet of luxury motor coaches which travel with the vessels to operate the shore excursions already have a capped capacity, which means spacing guests out is consistent with the existing operation.
An extremely high crew-to-passenger ratio on board means that crew will have the time to follow upgraded health and safety protocols, with regular cleaning and sanitising throughout the vessel.
Work is still being done to work out the ideal models for lounge usage and day to day operations, however we are confident that once the full protocols are in place, you will be able to return to the bliss of a Crystal river cruise with full confidence, and enjoy the company's uniquely stylish operation.