On Friday, 14 the first cruise ship departed from Heraklion, Crete for a trip to the Greek islands.
TUI’s Mein Schiff 5 carried about 1.000 tourists that arrived from Germany to a sail across the Aegean.
For Heraklion it was more than a symbolic ceremony. TUI has decided to make Heraklion its “homeport”, i.e. the port at which Mein Schiff 5 will be based. This means big money for the local economy, once all lockdown restrictions are lifted.
This is just the beginning, local authorities say.
“Two major cruise ships have picked Heraklion as their homeport,” Giorgos Sisamakis, Deputy Mayor for Tourism, told Greek Business File. “Mein Schiff 5 and Europa 2, one of the most luxurious cruise ships in the world. It is the first time this happens and it’s mainly thanks to the excellent job done by the Heraklion port authority. All hygiene protocols have been thoroughly followed, proper adjustments were made – everything went smoothly last year. The port is considered extremely safe and has become a top choice for cruise lines.”
It is the first of a number of cruise ships that have already arrived at the Greek ports, as Greece is among the first to fully open its ports to cruise travel.
On Friday, the country welcomed the first tourists too. They came mainly from Europe (Germany, France) and Israel.
Tourists can reach the country via the aiports of Athens and Thessaloniki, the island airports of Rhodes, Kos, Mykonos, Santorini, Corfu, Iraklio and Hania or through two border crossings in North Greece.
Travelers need to present proof of vaccination or of recovery from Covid-19, or a negative Covid-19 test result.
The official opening of Greek tourism was celebrated at Sounio, Attiki, where the Ministry of Tourism presented this year’s tourism marketing campaign.
“There is great interest for our country” Minister of Tourism, Harry Theoharis, said. “Obviously we will not reach the numbers of the pre– Covid-19 period, but nevertheless, we see that people from all over the world want to come to Greece. People want to travel.”
Greece is building its herd immunity fast. By the end of June, all residents of the Greek islands are expected to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
The same goes for people that work in the tourism industry.
Hotels, cultural venues, museums, bars and restaurants follow strict hygiene protocols.
Most lockdown measures are lifted, but a number of safety measures remain in place, such as wearing a mask outdoors and keeping social distancing.