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Spitsbergen sails in Svalbard. Hurtigruten hopes Arctic expedition cruises may restart this summer

May 11 updates: Avalon delay, CroisiEurope emerges, Hurtigruten extends suspension and plans gradual restart of operations

In addition to feature story coverage, here's a quick read of some of today’s coronavirus-related cruise news and announcements.

Keep checking back. This is being continuously updated.

Avalon Waterways suspends through August

Avalon Waterways is suspending travel through Aug. 31 and extended its 'Peace of Mind Plan' for travelers whose trips are impacted. This allows them to move travel dates to any destination across the Globus family of brands.

Travelers who are not ready to choose their new vacation can get a letter of credit for the full value paid, redeemable for any future departure through 2022. The offer also gives a bonus credit of $200 per person for a new reservation — again, redeemable for any future travel through 2022.

To get a refund instead, travelers with July and August departures need to advise Avalon by June 1.

CroisiEurope reopens in France, sets new Europe routes for La Belle ocean ship

After 55 days of lockdown, France today began a progressive end to the confinement. Ready for recovery, the French Strasbourg-based river cruise company CroisiEurope reopened its travel agencies and points of sale.

Reinforcing again its sanitary measures and the advantage of proximity to destinations with its cruises on the French rivers (Seine, Rhône, Rhine, Garonne, Gironde, Loire), it also published a new program for its oceangoing 129-passenger La Belle des Oceans (ex-Silver Discoverer), acquired in May 2019.

New Corsica and Canary Islands programs

Currently berthed in Dubrovnik, La Belle des Oceans is planned to operate eight-day cruises around Corsica from Nice starting at the end of August/early September until the end of October/early November with calls at Ajaccio, Bonifacio, Porto Vecchio, Bastia and L'Ile Rousse. The ship should then move to the Canary Islands until the end of February/early March for weekly cruises calling at Tenerife, El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Grand Canary and Lanzarote.

Moreover, no advance payment will be required to book cruises until Nov. 30, which can be canceled up to 16 days before the departure. An early booking rate is also offered for 2021 cruises.

Hurtigruten hopes for gradual restart from June 16

Hurtigruten extended its worldwide suspension of operations to mid-June and aims to gradually restart sailings from June 16.

In Norway, the company's headquarters and one of the most popular destinations for Arctic cruises, schools, restaurants, cinemas and hairdressers are open and travel restrictions are gradually being lifted. So gradually restarting operations within Norwegian waters is a natural first step, according to Hurtigruten CEO Daniel Skjeldam.

However, the size and scale of this depends on national and international travel restrictions, government support and other external factors.

Arctic expeditions this summer?

Also, Arctic expedition cruises are planned to restart this summer, in areas where restrictions are lifted — 'where and when we believe it is safe,' Skjeldam added. 'We are working closely with all relevant authorities, experts and agencies to ensure a safe and sensible restart of our expedition cruises.'

Hurtigruten had no cases of COVID-19 reported on its ships, and Skjeldam said lessons learned from the pandemic will form the basis of new, strict procedures to be imposed before operations resume. He referred to hundreds of small and larger measures; some will be transitory, some permanent. These include reduced capacity to allow social distancing.

Hurtigruten is offering penalty-free rebooking for all voyages departing before Sept. 30. Travelers also get a 10% discount for any future expedition or Norwegian coastal cruise in 2020 or 2021.

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