Holland America Line has received approval from the Greek government to restart cruising from Piraeus (Athens) in August with four Eurodam departures. Bookings will open on May 6. Gus Antorcha, the line's president, enthusiastically told reporters attending a Tuesday virtual briefing: "We're back. The bottom line—we are back."
He acknowledged that while it's "one out of 11" total ships (including the new Rotterdam) in the fleet to restart, it's a positive as the process "starts as one." Antorcha also noted that as Holland America returns to service, there may be more "tweaks to the fleet."
To accommodate the new Greece sailings, guests sailing on Eurodam’s published Alaska cruises that are roundtrip from Seattle will be moved to similar accommodations on sister ship Nieuw Amsterdam, which is scheduled to sail on the same departure dates.
Antorcha strongly reiterated what he had told Travel Agent in late April—that the line is not yet giving up on Alaska. Its intent is still to start sailing in the 49th state's waters in July, providing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agrees. "Draw no conclusions about Alaska," he told reporters in announcing the shift of Eurodam and the Greece restart.
So, exactly why is the line restarting with Eurodam? It's simple. "It's sitting in Europe," Antorcha said, adding that the Nieuw Amsterdam is currently "sitting in Alaska." So neither has to reposition.
In addition, Holland America announced the cancellation of European cruises departing July 1 through July 25 on Volendam and July 1 through August 31 on Westerdam.
Greece Restart Details
Citing the close cooperation it had received from the Greek government, Holland America said that on August 15 and August 29, Eurodam will sail on an "Idyllic Greek Isles" itinerary, which will call at Kotor, Montenegro, as well as the Greek isles of Kékira (Corfu), Thíra (Santorini) and Mykonos.
Santorini, Greece // Photo by Aetherial/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Departing August 22 on an "Ancient Wonders" itinerary, Eurodam will head for Haifa, Israel, as well as Náfplion, Mykonos and Rhodes in Greece. Both options can be combined to form a longer, back-to-back 14-day voyage. A seven-day “Adriatic Allure” itinerary will depart September 5 from Piraeus to Venice, Italy, with calls at Mykonos, Katakolon (Olympia) and Crete (Chania), Greece, as well as Sarandë, Albania.
Holland America said additional Mediterranean cruises aboard Eurodam through the fall will be announced in the coming weeks and include ports in Italy and Greece.
The line said it was still working through details with the Italian government, but anticipates those voyage specifics are coming. Antorcha said his brand had been "leveraging the relationship that Costa Group has" and that the September sailings are still out a few months, giving the line adequate time to finalize arrangements.
In mid-November, Eurodam will return to the U.S. to begin sailing its published Caribbean cruises.
“Everyone at Holland America Line has been preparing for our return to service, and we are grateful to the government of Greece for allowing us to show that we can safely operate our cruises,” said Antorcha. “The beautiful islands of Greece have been a highlight of our Mediterranean itineraries for decades, and we are honored to be able to restart out of Athens and give our guests a memorable vacation after all this time without cruise travel.”
Harry Theoharis, minister of tourism of Greece, added: "The Greek Islands have been welcoming Holland America Line ships for many years, and we are proud to work together to welcome the cruise line back this summer."
Onboard, Holland America Line says it will continue to offer the amenities that are a hallmark of the brand. Dining will be available in all restaurants and specialty venues, as well as room service. Entertainment will be in full swing in the main show lounge, and live music will be featured in Lincoln Center Stage, B.B. King’s Blues Club, Billboard Onboard (as shown in the photo below on Koningsdam) and Rolling Stone Rock Room.
Guests will also have the option to attend port-to-table culinary demonstrations, EXC Talks and other activities. To accommodate physical distancing, Holland America will add more performances to the schedule, as needed.
Travel Requirements and Protocols
Given Greek government and health policies, only those guests who have received their final dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to the beginning of the cruise and have proof of vaccination will be permitted to board and sail.
As for crew members, Antorcha said: "By August, our intent is to have everyone [on Eurodam] vaccinated."
That said, he said the line is maintaining a "one ship, one geography" approach—following rules for each region in which one ship sails. Those may vary and rules for other vessels and whether or not passengers must be vaccinated may vary as the line restarts in other regions. Holland America Line guests will be required to comply with all health and safety protocols in place at the time of departure for travel to and from the ship, as well as all onboard protocols and procedures for visiting ports.
Addressing whether or not shore excursions or time ashore in Greece will use the industry's "safety bubble" philosophy, Antorcha said details are "still to be exactly ironed out," noting that "requirements vary by port."
Additional preventive health measures under Holland America Line’s “Travel Well” program will be in place, including health screenings, face mask requirements, physical distancing and capacity controls. The ships now feature enhanced environmental sanitation and air ﬁltration with upgraded HVAC systems and ultraviolet technology. HEPA ﬁlters will be used in key areas as a further safeguard. In addition, medical centers will be equipped with COVID-19 testing and treatment capabilities. Holland America Line said its protocols are subject to change as work continues in collaboration with medical experts and government bodies
The line said attractive airfares from several domestic and international gateways will be available through Holland America Line’s FlightEase program.
Flexible cancellation terms, including COVID-19 protections, are offered through “Book with Confidence” when booked by June 30, 2021, for sailings through Dec. 31, 2021. The cruise line’s Cancellation Protection Plan also allows cancellation up to 24 hours in advance.
For more information, visit www.hollandamerica.com.