Johanna Jainchill
Johanna Jainchill

The EU this week signaled that it would open its borders to vaccinated travelers starting this summer, including those from the U.S.

If that happens, it could mean the launch of more Europe cruises that North American travel advisors are able to sell to their clients.

While the CDC has done little to move toward enabling U.S. residents to to board cruises from domestic ports, those wishing to cruise this summer have quite a few close-to-home options. Norwegian Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Crystal, Seabourn, Windstar and Viking are all launching ships from ports in the Caribbean, Bahamas and Bermuda.

But for those wishing to sail further afield, the options are more limited. As of now, Greece looks to take Miami's cruise-capital-of-the-world title this summer, with U.S.-based brands Norwegian, Celebrity, Silversea, Seabourn and Windstar planning to launch ships from Athens this June and July, in addition to the European lines such as Celestyal Cruises, Costa and Tui.

This is all thanks to Greece's plan to open to vaccinated travelers and those with negative Covid-19 tests on May 14. If other EU countries follow suit, it is likely that more U.S.-based lines will try to homeport ships from their ports, especially marquee ones that the European brands are already operating in or expect to -- like Civitavecchia (the port close to Rome) and Barcelona.

The New York Times reported that the president of the European Commission said the bloc's 27 members would "accept, unconditionally" all travelers this summer with approved vaccines, which include the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson shots being administered in the U.S.

Barcelona is among the ports working with cruise companies to resume service this summer. The Barcelona Port Authority, according to local reports, plans to launch test cruises in June. Gianni Onorato, MSC's CEO, said the company created itineraries that reflect European destinations and ports it expects to be open this summer and is confident that both Spain and France will be among those open to cruising.

One industry insider suggested that while it is too soon to start making plans, there would certainly be a lot of interest in opening ships in European ports to the ever-rising number of vaccinated Americans, many of whom are suffering from pent-up-demand and have two years of vacations budgets in their bank accounts.

The reopening of borders to vaccinated Americans could also enable Americans can sail on ships deployed beyond Europe and the Caribbean. Royal Caribbean's newest ship, the Odyssey of the Seas, will launch its first cruises this spring from Israel, open only to Israeli residents vaccinated Israeli residents 16 and over and to minors with a negative PCR test.

However, just last week, the Israel Ministry of Tourism said that as of May 23, it will welcome vaccinated groups of international travelers into the country and that individual travelers would be welcome in a later phase of the reopening, likely in July, a move that could eventually lead to relaxed restrictions on who is able to board the Odyssey.

And with MSC recently saying that more than half of its fleet would launch in Europe this summer, the opening of borders may mean that vaccinated Americans would be welcome on those 10 ships sailing in Italy, Germany, Croatia and, if all goes according to expectations, Spain and France.

The line said that as of July, its Mediterranean and Northern Europe sailings would open to non-European guests if travel restrictions are lifted for those coming from non-Schengen countries.

"As soon as the authorities allow for other countries to travel into Europe, we will align accordingly," an MSC spokesperson said. 

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