Costa Atlantica and Mediterranea leave Dubai after two-year COVID lay-up

Costa Atlantica and Costa Mediterranea, which spent almost the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic in warm lay-up in Dubai, have left the region and returned to Europe.

The two ships, which are owned by Carnival Corporation’s joint venture with the China State Shipbuilding Corporation (CSSC), were meant to cruise year-round from China prior to the pandemic.

The sister ships were purchased by CSSC in 2018 as part of Carnival Corporation’s aggressive expansion plans in the Asian cruise market.

Costa Mediterranea (pictured) and Costa Atlantica spent the pandemic in lay-up in Dubai

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However, the Chinese government has maintained its zero-tolerance policy toward the spread of COVID-19, with many cities still under partial lockdowns and strict regulations in place for travel, preventing the reopening of the country’s cruise industry.

With detailed restart plans not yet announced by CSSC, both vessels are currently anchored off Cyprus along with other Princess and P&O Australia cruise ships.

Costa Atlantic was the first ship to be handed over to her new owners back in 2018, and after a major refurbishment, was due to enter service in 2020, just days before the emergence of coronavirus brought the global cruise industry to a standstill.

Costa Mediterranea was transferred to the joint venture a few months later, but was requisitioned for service carrying Asian crew members in the Carnival Corporation fleet home.

Both vessels were later repositioned to Dubai, which became a popular holding area for many cruise lines, thanks to its convenient location mid-way between Europe and Asia.

At one point in mid-March, 2020, there were an unprecedented seven cruise ships docked in Port Rashid in Dubai, while as the pandemic wore on, some cruise ships, such as Costa Mediterranea, Costa Atlantica, and Carnival’s Spirit and Splendor, became semi-permanent residents.

Carnival Spirit and Splendor at the Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal

In fact, Carnival Spirit and Carnival Splendor were the first cruise ships to use the new Dubai Harbour Cruise Terminal, Dubai’s second cruise port, and the Carnival-owned cruise hub for the Arabian Gulf, but they weren’t carrying passengers at the time.

Built in Finland, Costa Atlantica and Costa Mediterranea share the design of Carnival’s Spirit-Class, and despite their new ownership, both vessels retain their original names and Costa livery.

The CSSC joint venture with Carnival Corporation had planned to initially operate the two ships out of China while also building two brand new vessels at the same time.

These two newbuilds are under construction at the Shanghai Waigaoqiao Shipbuilding Co (SWS) shipyard and are being built on the same platform as Carnival’s Vista-class ships. They’re set to debut in 2023 and 2024.

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