(11:15 BST) -- TUI River Cruises has confirmed a November 26 launch date for one of its three new river ships as well as revealed enhanced health protocols onboard.
The 156-passenger TUI Isla will sail three festive Christmas itineraries along the Rhine throughout November and December. TUI Skyla and TUI Maya will set sail in April 2021 from Frankfurt and Budapest.
All three vessels were due to launch in May, but were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the removal of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's travel ban on river cruises last month means the line can now plan for a November launch.
"Following the change in government advice on river cruising, holidaymakers now have the chance to explore Europe from its rivers and waterways," said Chris Hackney, Managing Director of Cruise for TUI UK & Ireland.
"First sailings are already proving popular and we’re looking forward to welcoming our first guests onboard TUI Isla in 100 days' time. Our teams are working really hard behind the scenes to ensure customers can cruise with confidence and enjoy their holiday with us."
All three ships have been through a 12- to 18-week major multi-million-pound makeover.
New Health & Safety Protocols
- Transfer buses will be regularly deep-cleaned between journeys, hand sanitiser will available for passengers. Staff will wear protective equipment and social distancing will be encouraged where possible.
- Passengers will be asked to fill in a health questionnaire whilst on their transfer to the ship and will have their temperature checked before boarding.
- Extra cleaning measures in place around the ships.
- Both restaurants are already waiter-service for lunch and dinner. At breakfast, the restaurants have an a la carte menu as well as a small buffet offering where customers can choose from either/both. The teams on board will assist customers wishing to use the buffet.
- Excursion group sizes will be smaller to help with social distancing and to give customers maximum flexibility they can cancel any excursions 48 hours in advance if they change their minds
- Passengers will need to wear face masks on their flights, in airports and they may be asked to wear them on transfers and onboard the ships
The line will not be reducing capacity on the first sailings. A spokesperson said: "We're not planning any capacity restrictions at this time because we can still achieve social distancing in full - by changing venue layouts, monitoring venue capacity and implementing one way systems if needed."
There is a choice of seven cabin types per ship with three cabins for solo travellers. As part of a the river cruise lines sustainability initative, all cabin carpets have been made from recylced fishing nets.
There are 36 suites across the three ships; all come with walk in wardobes, double French balconies and spacious bathrooms.
Each ship has two restaurants both complete with floor to ceiling views of the river, -- Verdastro, an elegant fine dining experience, and Bistro, a more casual eaterie. TUI River Cruises offers a "Full Board Plus" programme, which includes wine and beer and meal times.
There will be two bars, the Observatory with glass sliding doors opening out to the terrace and the Club Lounge, a relaxing coffee and cocktail bar with a digital fireplace and signature scent.
All passengers will receive a £120 credit per seven-day itinerary to use towards shore excursions and the addition of 12 new winter excursions increases the total to 150. The new additions include visits to Christmas markets and Christmas-themed city walking tours.
The line has 32 itineraries along the Danube, Rhine, Moselle, Main and Dutch and Belgian waterways, which include three- to 14-night sailings.