Smooth sailing: First international cruise ship since start of pandemic docks in Spain

An international cruise ship carrying German tourists docked Tuesday in Malaga, southern Spain, the first such arrival in more than a year, officials said.

cruise spain pandemic
Tourists disembark from the cruise ship 'Mein Schiff 2' of the German travel giant TUI at the port in Malaga, on June 15th. Photo: Jorge Guererro/AFP

On June 7th, Spain’s transport ministry lifted a ban on international cruise ships that had been imposed at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

The ban was lifted after the virus began to ease in Europe, where most cruise passengers come from, and also owing to rising vaccination numbers.

“This is the first international cruise ship,” a spokesman for Spain’s port authorities told AFP after the Mein Schiff 2 docked in the southern resort.

The liner belongs to German travel giant TUI.

“After 15 months in which our ports have stood empty, of waiting for these ships, we’re all committed to making it an unforgettable experience for the passengers,” Carlos Rubio, president of Malaga’s port authority, told RNE.

He said the visitors were being allowed off in organised groups however to ensure Covid safety regulations were adhered to.

“With these first cruises, the excursions are going to be in bubbles, meaning people won’t be able to walk around freely but I hope within in a few months, as the vaccination progresses, things can get back to normal.”

Rubio said Malaga was expecting to receive around 50 stopovers this year, describing it as “a good start”.

The vessel arrived from Gran Canaria in Spain’s Canary Islands and is to sail later Tuesday to Mallorca in the Balearic islands, the radio said.

Before the pandemic, Spain was Europe’s second-most popular destination for cruise ship stopovers.

In 2019, international cruises contributed around 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion)to Spain’s economy, accounting for 50,000 jobs and 1.5 billion euros in wages, according to Cruise Lines International Association.

With more than 80,000 deaths and 3.6 million infections, Spain has been badly hit by the pandemic but the number of cases has slowed significantly as its vaccination programme has gathered pace.

To read more travel news, explainers and other content on The Local Spain, check out our travel section here. 

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US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Authorities in the USA have announced the end of the Covid-testing requirement for arrivals from Europe, meaning that fully vaccinated people will soon be able to travel between Europe and the US without needing pre-travel tests.

US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Most of Europe had dropped the testing requirement for fully-vaccinated arrivals in the spring, but the US has maintained the requirement to show proof of a negative test for all arrivals.

However on Friday, the Biden administration announced that it would not renew the testing requirement.

The new rule is expected to come into effect at 12.01 Sunday EDT, until then passengers will still need to show a negative Covid test before they can board a plane to the US.

The US currently bars unvaccinated travellers from entry ÔÇô although this does not apply to US citizens, US residents or those travelling for essential reasons ÔÇô there was no announcement on lifting this restriction.┬á

The CDC said that testing requirements could be reinstated if new variants of Covid emerge, and added that it continues to recommend pre-travel testing. 

Covid travel rules vary between individual countries in Europe, but most countries now only require pre-departure tests for unvaccinated travellers. Check the rules of the country you are travelling to for full details. 

To be counted as ‘fully vaccinated’ travellers must have received both doses of an EMA-approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca (or a single dose of Janssen).

If their vaccination was more than nine months ago, they need a booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated – people who have had a booster do not need a second, even if their booster shot was more than nine months ago.