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The first 110 passengers on board Nicko Cruises who sailed on the Danube on 1 June in Germany heralds the return of river cruising on European waterways.

After a three-month halt to global cruising because of COVID-19, Nicko Vision, a domestic German river ship, sailed from Passau to Dusseldorf at half capacity to allow for social distancing among guests.

Another German line, A-Rosa will kick start sailings on the Douro River in Portugal on 17 June, followed by the Rhine on 19 June and the Danube on 20 June. Itineraries on the Seine and Rhone in France are expected to resume in early July.

Rhein Melodie of Nicko Cruises

The moves come as Central Europe gradually re-opens and eases travel restrictions.

But it was a very different experience for the passengers on board NickoVision.

Before boarding the ship for the 13-day itinerary on the Danube and the Rhine, passengers had to fill in a health form and had their temperatures checked.

They were also required to wear face masks during the journey and only half the ship was filled to allow for social distancing. There will not be any buffets on board and all meals and drinks will be served to the dining table. Passengers were also not allowed to use the lifts and public toilets. All services at the hairdresser and spas will be closed and ship’s hand rails and surfaces will be regularly disinfected. Passengers must undergo daily temperature checks.

Unusual for a river vessel, there was also a doctor on board.

The Stuttgart-based Nicko Cruises is a German domestic line which uses ships chartered from shipping company, Scylla.

Arno Reitsma, CEO of Scylla said: “We have been working for months to adapt our operations to the ‘new normality.’ We’re delighted today to see those efforts are paying off. Guests are boarding again and are ready to start rediscovering the wonderful places along the European waterways.”

A-Rosa managing director Jorg Eichler told the London Telegraph: “River cruises are an ideal and flexible form of travel for a safe, relaxing holiday in the ‘new normal.’ The ships are comparatively small and have relatively few guests on board, so hygiene rules can be implemented efficiently.”

In the US, American Cruise Lines is gearing up to return on the Columbia and Snake Rivers on 20 June and on the Mississippi on 28 June.