Pandemic Sees Zadar Cruise Ship Season 2021 Called into Question

Lauren Simmonds

Updated on:

zadar cruise port
Copyright Romulic and Stojcic
Copyright Romulic and Stojcic

As Morski writes, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic completely paralysed the cruise ship industry last year. Due to the impossibility of securing the necessary epidemiological measures, the world’s largest cruise companies moored almost all of their gigantic vessels. Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) shows that in the circular tourism sector in 2020, there were only 26 arrivals, which is 700 trips or a mindblowing 96.4 percent less than there were in 2019, all as a result of the coronavirus pandemic and the numerous problematic restrictions on international travel.

The data also shows that there were cruises of foreign ships taking in the first three months of last year, then there was a complete cessation of travel until the month of July. Five trips were made in August and September, after which the cruise industry stalled completely by the end of the year. In 2020, cruisers sailed only in ports in Dubrovnik-Neretva and Istria counties. Unlike large international vessels, small cruise vessels from Croatian agencies and companies did make several voyages in late June and early July, following the easing of epidemiological measures in Croatia back at that time

Skific explained the situation with the interruption of cruise ships and problems in the last year, as well as the potential and prospects for the upcoming tourist season.

”Last year will probably be recorded as one of the most difficult years we’ve ever had, especially in the segment of international passenger traffic. The coronavirus pandemic practically wiped out all cruise ship announcements as well as international liner traffic in the space of a mere few weeks in March, not only in all Croatian ports but in all ports across the world. It’s been a global crisis, and cruise companies have been hit the hardest by the pandemic, even more so than the aviation industry. It’s impossible to dock in more or less all of the world’s ports, and the only type of activity that remains in the ports has become the acceptance of ships without passengers on them, vessels which are at rest,” explained Skific.

”Out of the announced slightly more than 200,000 passengers back in 2020, only 714 passengers arrived, and all of this more or less happened before the start of the pandemic in March. An additional limiting element in the acceptance of cruise ships during 2020 was the Decision of the National Civil Protection Headquarters on the ban on entry of passenger ships carrying more than 200 passengers into Croatian waters.

For most of the year, there were one to two cruisers of the Marella Cruises company (Dream and Discovery 2) in the ports, in their lay-up (at rest) status,” he added.

Compared to pre-pandemic 2019, revenues in the cruise ship segment decreased by approximately 5 million kuna. When compared to the announcements for 2020, the decline in revenue should have been even more pronounced. Zadar Port Authority lost so much at the expense of collecting port fees. Broadly speaking, the lost revenue of all our concessionaires that are directly related to the provision of services to cruise ships are very high,” noted Skific.

The Zadar cruise ship season this year is being called into question, and this industry will have the hardest time of all when it comes to recovery

Experts predict that the cruise ship industry will have the hardest time recovering from the consequences of the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike airlines, which, in the absence of passenger transport, shifted their operations to freight, cruise companies had no choice but to “drop anchor” and wait. Due to the uncertain situation with the coronavirus pandemic, the Zadar Port Authority hasn’t yet published its list of announced cruiser arrivals. They say that when a trip is actually realised, they will publish the data day by day.

”The announcements of arrivals for this year aren’t relevant because the data changes from day to day and this is completely unreliable data, given that even cruising companies don’t know if and when they will start implementing their own respective itineraries for 2021. In the announcements, we had a little less than 200 voyages on which about 320,000 passengers were to arrive, counting on the full capacity of the vessel. Realistically, we expected about 280,000 passengers in 2021, of course, this was according to the announcements before the coronavirus pandemic struck,” explained Skific.

The Zadar cruise ship season for 2021 will depend entirely on the epidemiological situation at any given time

The biggest challenge for cruise companies in 2021 will be to gain the trust of both tourists and employees. Holidays in a situation where the proper epidemiological measures aren’t one hundred percent guaranteed are now no longer attractive at all. No company is interested in repeating last year’s situation in which the passengers and crews of cruisers found themselves, when it was discovered that the virus had appeared on vessels in the United States and in Japan.

Passengers and crew in such situations were forced to either carry out quarantine on board the ships or in the country where the ship was granted permission to anchor. Some countries such as Thailand and Malaysia have banned the landing of cruisers in their ports. Such a situation also leads to diplomatic conflicts between countries whose citizens are infected on a cruise ship and countries that aren’t ready to take care of the sick or at least arrange to ensure their return to their home countries in accordance with all epidemiological measures.

Skific was asked about the existence of instructions and protocols on the entry of vessels under foreign flags if there are infected crew members or passengers on them.

”According to the announcements, a general instruction of the Ministry of Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure on the treatment of infected passengers is expected. However, it’s also expected that in agreement and coordination with the National Civil Protection Headquarters, different approaches will be present depending on the destination, city or port. It will all depend on the current epidemiological situation in certain destinations,” he said.

Both ports and cruise companies are required to provide security and safety protocols

”From the very beginning of the pandemic, we’ve taken a number of measures to protect the health of employees – all according to the instructions of the Headquarters – from disinfectants in each office to having it at the entrance to the Port Authority. The entrance door to the premises of the Zadar Port Authority is locked so that we strictly control who enters and exits, we keep our distance at meetings and wear masks, we also do the same in our offices if more than one person is working in the office at any one time.

There are few of us and it’s very important for us to preserve the health of every single employee given the large amount of work and projects that this Port Authority implements. Additionally, in the case of smaller controlled events with more than one person involved, the body temperature of each of the participants is measured,” he assured.

Cruise ships are practically prisons at sea, which is hardly an attractive idea to anyone. Last year, due to a lack of information about the novel coronavirus, and due to not finding a way to prevent the virus from entering ships, cruise companies were brought to their very knees in the form of bankruptcy. This year, the main task of cruise companies is to provide healthcare and safety protocols to protect both passengers and crew.

The most important part of these protocols is to test all passengers and crew members for the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, before departure. One of the ways to reduce the possibility of exposure to the virus is to abolish the stay outside the vessel during a vessel’s time in ports or to arrange organisations referred to as ”Bubble trips”, in which passengers and guides don’t come into any contact with any people who haven’t been on board.

In terms of hygiene standards, the use of hospital disinfectants, which destroy 99 percent of the virus, is now recommended. Reducing the number of passengers to ensure social distance is another important item to take into consideration although this will also hurt the already empty pockets of the industry. It is also being recommended to determine isolation units for guests and crew with suspected coronavirus infection.

With all of the above in mind, Royal Caribbean, together with the Israeli health and tourism authorities, offered the first round trip on which the crew and guests over the age of sixteen must be vaccinated against COVID-19.

A properly controlled corridor

”Cruise ship companies have adopted a number of very strict protocols – from PCR tests after the first and after each subsequent entry into the vessel, some companies will only allow vaccinated passengers to book, excursions are being organised in strictly controlled conditions and for some, it will not be possible for people to leave the ship freely with some individual arrangements.

Passengers who don’t respect this will simply be sent home if, contrary to the ship’s protocol, they go beyond the agreed rules. Such events have already been recorded in the few test itineraries organised with a limited number of passengers involved. In addition, companies will only fill part of their capacitis, and bus trips with more than 50 percent of their full capacity utilised will not be allowed on excursions.

Individual departures from the vessels in the next short-term period will not be possible at all. The protocols are such that in the destination they actually take us as a bigger threat to passengers than they could be to us,” Skific pointed out, adding that COVID-19 protocols of cruise companies currently don’t and won’t allow for the uncontrolled arrival and departure of passengers.

”A controlled corridor with security guards measuring body temperatures, disinfectants and masks inside the terminal in that short passage time to the bus at this point seems quite sufficient. Travel and maritime agents, drivers and everyone from the destination who is in contact with passengers will have to adhere to the same protocols. However, depending on the epidemiological situation, the introduction of additional measures is not excluded,” he warned.

Although the Zadar cruise ship season is in doubt, luckily, the Zadar Port Authority doesn’t depend exclusively on cruise ships

”More or less all cruise ship trips before the end of June have been practically cancelled, and the big question is what will happen in the second half of the season. According to informal talks with these cruise companies, they don’t expect a significant number of trips to actually happen before the end of August and the beginning of September. Let’s hope that the vaccination of the population will do its thing – by improving the epidemiological picture across Croatia by the end of the summer, we could reach at least autumn with the arrival of some cruise ships.

Back at the very beginning of this year, we thought that about one-third of the planned arrivals would be realised, however, as things currently stand, we’d be pleased with the very fact that traffic is starting to actually kick off again. Luckily we aren’t quite as exposed to the need for revenues from cruise ships like some other ports in Croatia and the world are, our revenues are prudently dispersed into several segments of traffic and activities, however, in case the pandemic fails to calm down by the end of the year, we’ll all have cause for concern,” warned Skific.

One thing is for sure, even if the coronavirus pandemic were to suddenly end tomorrow, all cruise companies will need a lot of time to regain the trust of customers and potential employees after this absolute disaster.

For more information on coronavirus specific to Croatia, including travel, quarantine and border rules, as well as the locations of testing centres up and down the country, make sure to bookmark this page.

For more on travel, click here. For all you need to know about Zadar, visit Zadar in a Page.


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