European river lines adapt to Netherlands' travel restrictions

A river cruise restart this summer is being tested by a new EU advisory regarding U.S. travelers, specifically in the Netherlands, which is now subjecting vaccinated travelers to a 10-day quarantine, or a five-day quarantine if the traveler provides a negative PCR test halfway through the quarantine.

With Amsterdam as one of the most popular embarkation ports in river cruising, the mandatory quarantine will affect any pre-cruise tours or overnight stays in the country. However, on Sept. 3, the government included a quarantine exemption for stays of 12 hours or less, which would enable river cruise passengers enough time to board and sail.

Despite the rapid changes, river lines seem to be working around the new protocols rather than canceling calls in Amsterdam.

  • Related: A country-by-country guide to Europe travel requirements

According to Kristin Karst, the executive vice president and co-founder of AmaWaterways, the company “immediately went into action” to modify itineraries, tours and pre-cruise land packages.

For September departures, AmaWaterways guests arriving in Amsterdam on the same day of their sailing must arrive prior to 3:30 p.m. in order to transfer to the ship and sail by 6 p.m. Any guest with a pre-cruise tour of the Netherlands booked through the cruise line will now be transferred to Antwerp, Belgium. Independent, pre-cruise stays are highly discouraged due to the quarantine.

AmaWaterways previously required all guests to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, but in addition to vaccination certificates, the line is now requiring that all U.S. travelers arriving into the Netherlands provide either a negative PCR test result collected no more than 48 hours before departure to the Netherlands or a negative antigen test result collected no more than 24 hours before departure. Additionally, AmaWaterways will require all guests to fill out a quarantine declaration form.

“This is a rapidly changing situation that we are monitoring very closely,” Karst said. “As it may change again, we encourage travel partners and guests traveling to the Netherlands in October or after to check back on our website for updates.”

Pam Hoffee, managing director of Avalon Waterways, also said Avalon was adjusting itineraries to suit the new rules. “We are contacting all affected guests to alert them of minor itinerary modifications prior to departure and look forward to delivering them an incredible river cruise vacation through the heart of Europe’s storybook settings,” she said.

“Last-minute changes in the current travel environment are no longer unusual,” said Ellen Bettridge, president and CEO of Uniworld Boutique River Cruises.

Uniworld’s River Duchess will now depart the Netherlands on embarkation day, Sept. 8. “Details of the new itinerary are being finalized now, and while we regret having to alter plans, our staff onboard and on shore are committed to ensuring Uniworld guests a seamless and memorable journey,” said Bettridge.    

“While the sudden regulations instituted by the government of the Netherlands have presented a challenge to vaccinated guests from countries including the U.S…. we’re adapting but will not disappoint further by canceling sailings.”  

Crystal also said it was modifying its itinerary of the Crystal Debussy by departing earlier than scheduled. It was evaluating the rules to see how they might affect cruises scheduled for Sept. 13 onward, it said.

On Aug. 30, the European Union removed the U.S. from its safe-travel list and advised restricting nonessential travel by Americans into Europe as Covid-19 cases have spiked within the U.S. The advisement appeared primarily geared to unvaccinated travelers and, in any case, left it to each country within the EU to decide whether to implement new entry protocols. However, it created concern among travel advisors and confusion among clients.

While most countries have not yet taken any additional action, Italy also tightened its protocols for vaccinated travelers.

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