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Some international cruise lines are resuming operations sooner than expected, with expedition leader, Hurtigruten, one of the first lines to return to the seas on 16 June.

The line will kick start its summer season with the classic Bergen-Kirkenes-Bergen itinerary onboard the 900-passenger MS Finnmarken for local cruisers with prices starting from $4982 per person for the 12-day voyage.

Aranui Cruises will also restart its cruise operations to French Polynesia for local travellers on 18 July with the introduction of new health and hygiene protocols.

This follows the decision by French Polynesia to reopen its borders to international tourists on 15 July.

As a mixed passenger-freighter vessel, Aranui 5 is one of the few ships that continued to sail during the pandemic, carrying essential services and cargo to one of the most remote island groups in the world – the Marquesas Islands.

“Since the pandemic grounded flights, closed borders and stopped cruise operations around the world, Aranui 5 has been unable to take passengers on its usual 13-day round trip voyage from Papeete to the Marquesas, but this hasn’t stopped the ship making its epic 3000km delivery run to ensure the island communities weren’t completely cut off from the world,” the line said.

To ensure the health and safety of the remote island communities, the 30-strong Polynesians crew wear masks and gloves when handling cargo, practice social distancing while onboard the ships and locals are asked to pick up their cargo at staggered times throughout the day, Aranui said.

Luxury French line, Ponant Cruises hope to restart its cruise operations in early July subject to the French government and port authorities giving the greenlight.

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Once approval is given by the French Government including national, prefectorial and port authorities, “We should resume our cruises as soon as 4 July,” said Herve Bellaiche, chief sales and marketing officer for Ponant.

“These cruises are not only for French passengers. As usual, English will be also spoken on board our ships. And foreign guests are welcome as long as travel and sanitary conditions allow it,” Mr Bellaiche said.

Ponant will introduce stringent health screening before embarking passengers and goods and maintain strict hygiene measures on board.

The line is negotiating parking at embarkation ports for passengers who prefer to drive their own cars. The line is also able to organise a private transfer from home to the ship and back if guests prefer not to drive, take a train or plane to their port of embarkation and disembarkation.

On Hurtigruten’s return to cruising, CEO, Daniel Skjeldam said: “These voyages in Norwegian waters will be our first small steps towards the new normal. As of now, we do not know what the international travel restrictions will look like this summer.

“From even stricter hygiene protocols to reduced guest capacity to allow social distancing, you have my word that this will give you a safer voyage without impacting your experience,” he added.

Hurtigruten also plans to gradually restart its Arctic expedition cruises this summer “in areas where restrictions are lifted – where and when we believe it is safe,” Mr Skjeldam said.

Hurtigruten is the only company in Norway that has continued to sail during the pandemic with two of its ships providing transport, shipping products and delivery of critical supplies and post up and down the coastline.

Meanwhile on European waterways, local German river line, Nicko Cruises took its first passengers on a Danube Cruise on 1 June. Passengers had to wear face masks during the 13-day cruise and the ship, NickoVision was travelling at half capacity to allow for social distancing.

Another German river line, A-Rosa will start cruising on the Douro River in Portugal on 17 June, followed by the Rhine on 19 June and the Danube on 20 June.  Itineraries on the Seine and Rhone are scheduled to restart in early July.

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