Costa Cruises is heralding the return of its East Asia program, as Costa Serena on June 1, became the industry’s first ship to operate an outbound cruise from Busan, South Korea, since travel restrictions were lifted. The ship will operate a series of South Korea and Taiwan voyages through October.
Costa Serena Sailing Between South Korea, Taiwan
Costa Cruises has officially resumed operations in Asia following its suspension of cruises in the fall of 2022 due to pandemic-related protocols. The line has deployed the 3,780-guest Costa Serena to sail 35 cruises through October 2023, with departures from the ports of Busan, Sokcho, and Pohang, all in South Korea, as well as from Keelung and Kaohsiung in Taiwan.
The 114,000 gross ton ship will operate eight cruises for the South Korean market in June and October 2023. From July to October 2023, she will sail 27 voyages geared to the Taiwan market.
Itineraries will range from 4 to 7 days, with all port calls in Japan, including Otaru, Muroran, Hakodate, Aomori, Fukuoka, Sasebo, Nagasaki, Yatsushiro, Kagoshima, Naha, Ishigaki, and Miyakojima.
Cruisers can depart from a range of ports, including Busan, Sokcho, and Pohang in South Korea, and from Keelung and Kaohsiung in Taiwan. All of the cruises are charters, organized with local travel partners, said Costa.
“With the departure of Costa Serena from Busan, we celebrate a historic event for cruises in Asia. We are, in fact, the first company to resume outbound cruises dedicated to South Korea, and soon also to Taiwan, after the pause due to travel restrictions caused by the pandemic,” said Costa Cruises’ President Mario Zanetti.
“It’s a very important moment for the recovery of the cruise industry in Asia. We achieved this significant result thanks to our historic presence in Asia and established relationship with local partners and institutions,” added Zanetti.
Prior to her departure from Busan, Costa Serena, which entered service in 2007, had operated two cruises visiting Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
Pandemic Rules Prompted Suspension of Cruises
The Italy-based line, a Carnival Corporation brand, had cancelled all sailings from East Asian homeports in October 2022 due mainly to quickly changing protocols resulting from local and regional pandemic case counts. The situation created significant challenges for booked and prospective guests in terms of traveling to cruise ship homeports.
At the time, Costa Cruises said it planned to restructure ship deployments to include other areas more open for international travel. With the easing of travel restrictions in East Asia, the line is again committed to operating a full season of cruises.
More Cruise Lines Returning to East Asia
Costa Cruises is not alone in its return to the East Asia market. Princess Cruises is home-porting the 2,670-guest Diamond Princess in Tokyo, following the line’s announcement in late 2022 that it would resume service to the Japanese market. The ship’s first cruise departs on June 3.
The line’s decision came soon after the Japanese government said it would reopen its ports to international cruise ships. Diamond Princess’s spring series of voyages range from 5 to 19 days and include 43 unique itineraries.
Also, Oceania Cruises revealed in early 2023 that its 1,238-guest Riviera will be based in Asia for the 2023-2024 season, and offer 25 cruises ranging from 10 to 82 days.
It will be the ship’s first deployment to the region. Ports of call are to include destinations in Vietnam, China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
A highlight of Riviera’s deployment is sure to be her 72-night “Epic Eastern Explorer” voyage, a one-way sailing from Mumbai, India to Tokyo, Japan. Departing on January 8, 2024, the ship will call at ports in India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, Japan, and South Korea.