As destinations around the world open up cautiously to bank on summer tourists and cruise lines gradually return to the seas with never-before-seen add-ons and promotions, Emirates ramps up operations to 90 per cent of its pre-pandemic network, while Etihad focuses on easing travel in confusing times with initiatives such as Verified to Fly
Summer travel is a real possibility this year with borders opening up for international tourists around the world, airlines quick to connect to these destinations and the increasing rates of vaccination, albeit at varying rates, in both the destination and origin countries. With most international cruise lines announcing their return to sailing over the summer, there is no better time to prepare for the big return of cruising. After over a year of voluntary suspension of cruising, several global cruise lines will set sail this July, with water-tight health and safety regulations.
Travellers from the UAE who had been restricted to secluded island destinations over the last few months, especially the Maldives, can now travel quarantine free to Phuket in Thailand, Greece, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, France, Germany, Malta, Russia, and the US, among several other destinations.
With Etihad Airways, Emiratis and travellers who do not need a visa to enter a Schengen country have been able to travel to Milan or Rome in Italy without a requirement to quarantine since June 1. Both cities offer the ideal gateway to enjoy the historic sites, delicious cuisine and beautiful scenery the country has to offer. (Travellers must have a PCR test a maximum of 48 hours before their flight departure time from Abu Dhabi, or a rapid test can be conducted for transiting guests in Abu Dhabi International Airport. On arrival in Italy, guests will be required to take a Rapid Antigen Swab Test.)
For Etihad Airways guests travelling between Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, Greece and Seychelles, a safe travel corridor has been established for fully vaccinated individuals. Vaccination certificates issued by the health authorities in these countries are mutually recognised and permits visitors to enter without quarantine. For vaccinated residents and citizens returning to the UAE capital from countries not on Abu Dhabi’s ‘green list’, the quarantine period has been reduced.
Travellers can explore the big cities of the United States with Etihad’s flights to Chicago, New York, and Washington DC. Guests departing Abu Dhabi have access to Etihad’s USA pre-clearance, the only United States Customs and Border Protection facility in the Middle East. This allows passengers bound for the United States to process all immigration, customs and agriculture inspections in Abu Dhabi before they board their flight.
On the back of quarantine free travel to Morocco, and back into the emirate of Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways restarted its services to Rabat on June 23. As Phuket prepares to reopen to international vaccinated travellers, Etihad is recommencing services to the popular holiday destination on July 1, 2021. The Rabat service will operate with an initial twice weekly flight and Phuket will be three times a week, using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, offering Economy Space and Neighbour-free seating options.
Emirates has also announced plans to restart flights to Phuket with the re-opening of the island to international tourism. Four weekly services are scheduled to start from July 2. Those who are vaccinated against Covid-19 will enjoy hassle-free travel, with no quarantine on arrival.
Thailand is set to welcome international tourists back. On July 1, Phuket will be the first destination in the country that allows those who are fully vaccinated to enter and travel within the destination without quarantine under the ‘Phuket Sandbox model’.
Emirates is ramping up its operations and expanding services across its network to meet strong leisure travel demand over the summer, as entry restrictions ease for travellers. By the end of July, it will have recovered 90 per cent of its pre-pandemic network, operating services across 130 cities.
The airline will resume services to seven cities in July including: Venice on July 1; Phuket, Nice, Orlando and Mexico City on July 2; Lyon on July 9 and Malta on July 14.
Emirates will also launch flights to Miami, starting July 22. With the addition of this new flight to Miami, Emirates will now serve the US with over 70 weekly flights, offering over 26,000 seats across 12 gateways including Boston, Chicago, New York (JFK and Newark), Houston, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC and Orlando.
Emirates will be adding frequencies to 12 cities across Europe, Africa and North America as more destinations re-open for international visitors, and offer quarantine free travel. Destinations with enhanced schedules for July and August include: German cities Munich, Dusseldorf and Hamburg; Zurich; Vienna; Prague; Madrid; Stockholm; Brussels; Lisbon; Chicago and Tunis.
The airline will resume flights between Dubai and Venice from July 1, initially offering 3 flights a week on the route. The airline will also increase services to Milan from 8 to 10 weekly flights in July. This will comprise of a daily service on the Dubai-Milan-New York JFK route, and a 3-weekly return flights between Dubai and Milan. Together with Emirates' 5 weekly flights to Rome and 3 weekly flights to Bologna, this will take the airline's total services to Italy to 21 weekly flights to 4 cities in July. Emirates will serve Venice, Milan, Rome and Bologna with its widebody Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
Emirates' expansion of flight services in Italy follows the start of "Covid-Tested flight" arrangements, which allow its passengers to travel to Italy without quarantine on arrival.
Emirates has announced it will resume three weekly services to Malta via Larnaca, Cyprus, from July 14. With a successful vaccination programme and an overall decrease in daily Covid-19 cases in the country, Malta has officially welcomed UAE tourists back to the Maltese Islands on June 1. Known for its beautiful beaches and diverse archaeological sites, customers travelling from the UAE can now enjoy quarantine-free travel to one of the most exciting Mediterranean destinations.
Passengers travelling to Malta, who are 5 years old or above, are required to hold a negative Covid-19 test certificate for a test taken within 72 hours of arrival in Malta. Passengers must also present a completed Passenger Locator Form (PLF) and a negative Covid-19 PCR test certificate at check-in to be accepted for travel to Malta.
As part of the Incentives for Free Independent Travellers (Fit) Scheme launched by the Malta Tourism Authority to boost tourism, Emirates passengers visiting the Maltese Islands for a minimum of three nights can also enjoy discounted rates offered by local hotels in Malta and earn up to €200 ($240) credit when booking directly when booking directly through them.
With the extreme volatility in the travel and tourism sector brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant containment policies and measures enacted in order to prevent its continued spread, every country seems to have a different set of rules for letting in travellers whether with or without quarantine. Budgets are also more important now than ever before with PCR tests varying in costs from country to country, easily adding up to $1,000 for a family of four to be vaccinated twice or even three times as the destination requires.
Whether the passenger is fully vaccinated or not and whether the vaccine is recognised in their country, which country or countries she may have visited in the last 14 days, which city/part of the destination she is visiting, how old she is, and a number of other factors will define the ease with which a traveller will travel.
To simplify the travel experience somewhat, Etihad recently launched Verified to Fly, allowing guests to validate their Covid-19 travel documents before arriving at the airport. Travellers who use Verified to Fly can enjoy fast track check-in at the airport by going to the dedicated Verified to Fly desk for a quicker and smoother experience. To use the Verified to Fly service, guests can sign-up by visiting Manage my Booking and will receive further information on how to submit their documents.
For more convenient travel options, guests can also check in for their Etihad flight from the comfort of their own home up to seven hours before their flight. This means passengers can check in their bags, choose their seat and collect their boarding pass and luggage tags from their home in Abu Dhabi. Once at Abu Dhabi International Airport, all non-transit passengers who have used the home check-in service can skip the queues bag-free, making the airport journey seamless. Luggage will need to be collected at the destination baggage belt.
COOL OFF ON A CRUISE OF YOUR CHOICE
ON the cruise front, Royal Caribbean’s Jewel of the Seas is ready to set sail from Cyprus this July 10 on 7-night itineraries covering the gorgeous Greek Isles, including port of calls in Rhodes, Mykonos, Piraeus (Athens), Santorini (Thira), and Souda Bay.
Beginning this July 3, Seabourn Ovation will operate a series of seven-day cruises exploring beautiful and historic ports throughout the Greek Isles. Guests will also be able to book longer 14-day voyages, which combine individual 7-day voyages with a variety of different ports on each. Seabourn will take guests to the ports of Agios Nikolaos, Rhodes, Mykonos and Nafplion as well as Limassol, Cyprus on one itinerary. On the other, guests will have the opportunity to experience Patmos, Rhodes, Thira and Spetsai along with a call at Paphos, Cyprus.
Norwegian Cruise Line recently announced its return to service, with three new itineraries sailing Europe and The Caribbean beginning July 25 and Alaska starting August 7. The cruise line will restart operations with Norwegian Jade, Joy and Gem as the first of its 17-ship fleet to welcome guests back on board. Travellers can enjoy all new seven-day cruises to the Greek Isles on Norwegian Jade from Athens (Piraeus) beginning July 25. They can also island hop with week-long Caribbean itineraries available from Montego Bay, Jamaica as of August 7, 2021 on Norwegian Joy or from Punta Cana (first time in the cruise line’s history), Dominican Republic on Norwegian Gem beginning August 15, 2021.
The company will also resume cruise operations from the US beginning August 7 with week-long voyages from Seattle, Washington. These sailings aboard Norwegian Bliss will operate revised itineraries from through to Oct 16, offering seven to thirteen hours of port time in Skagway, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Icy Strait Point, Alaska.
(Norwegian Cruise Line also opened for sale the first of six ships within its highly anticipated next class of vessels, Prima Class, the brand’s first new class of ships in nearly 10 years, with voyages beginning in summer 2022.)
Holland America Line has received approval to restart cruising from Piraeus (Athens) in August with four departures aboard Eurodam. Departing August 15 and 29, the Idyllic Greek Isles itinerary features Kotor, Montenegro, plus the Greek isles of Kékira (Corfu), Thíra (Santorini) and Mykonos. Ancient Wonders departs August 22 to explore 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 Collectors’ Voyage.
A seven-day Adriatic Allure itinerary departing September 5 will sail from Piraeus to Venice, Italy, with calls at Mykonos, Katakolon (Olympia) and Crete (Chania), Greece, and Sarandë, Albania. Additional Mediterranean cruises aboard Eurodam through the fall will include ports in Italy and Greece. Eurodam returns to the United States to begin sailing its published Caribbean cruises in mid-November. Princess Cruises plans to resume cruising in United States with Alaska Sailings departing Seattle starting July 25.
MSC Cruises – that enjoys the privilege of having sailed more or less throughout the pandemic without incident – announced the restart of its sailing operations in Germany on July 3 with is first ever deployment of an innovative Seaside class ship to operate in the Baltic Sea, MSC Seaview, and with a brand-new itinerary for the region. At the moment, however, MSC Seaview will be available for guests from the Schengen area in Europe, plus residents of Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria only.
• Most of the above cruise lines have specified that only fully vaccinated guests will be welcome onboard. There may be age restrictions on the guests, with some brands opting to not allow kids onboard for safety reasons, while others asking for proof of negative PCR for under-18s.
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