Right now, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic there isn't much of a choice. I live in Dusseldorf, Germany. Started cruising in 2013 and just celebrating my 50th cruise. The well-known cruise line AIDA failed due to lack of permission of its registry country Italy and Corona positive crew members. It seemed that TUI Cruises was doing better.
The planned itinerary - from Hamburg (Mein Schiff 2) and Kiel (Mein Schiff 1) towards the Norwegian Fjords needed to be changed, because Norway did not open its fjords in time. Therefore the cruise went to Stockholm / Sweden and Turku / Finland, with no opportunity for shore excursions.
The cruise is part of the restart-programme after the complete shutdown. The ship is designed to carry up to 2,894 passengers, only 730 were on board. Sometimes it was like a "ghost ship", you could walk from stern to bow without seeing another person. All facilities were open, and social distancing was easy. Germany love to swim, the new Mein Schiff fleet has 25 meter pools (80 feet long.
Although we could not get off the ship in Stockholm and Turku, they did everything to make this cruise most entertaining. Mein Schiff 2 from hamburg and Number 1 from Kiel were departing on the same day. There was a come-together in the port of Stockholm, which attracted a lot of attention, especially currently, when no other passenger ships are sailing. Both ships come together side by side, some enthusiastic crew members were very cheerfull spotting some of their friends on the other shop,. waving, yelling, dancing.
Usually cruise ships arrive in Stockholm very early in the morning, so passengers won't have a chance to see the breathtaking skerries (rocky islands shore landscape) which takes about 5 hours to sail through, a pure childhood dream from an Astrid Lindgren book. A true Pippi Longstocking experience! We were crossing the Skerries at daytime, and it was wonderful.
The same lovely landscape awaited us at the Turku shoreline. Both ships stopped not far from the Meyer Turku ship yard, where both ships had been built. From there, we could see a rather sad display: the brand-new Carnival Mardi Gras, waiting to go into service - not yet delivered due to the crusis. Behind it in the dry dock: Costa Toscana, construction in progress. It doesn't happen too often that cruise ships return to their birthplaces, this time it was special!
Both in Stockholm and Turku these events get a lot of response in the local press, and lots of smaller ships and boats came by, people waving, cheering and everybody wanted to get a glance of what was going on there. And we were so lucky, weatherwise, too! We had blue skies and magnificent sunshine every day.
I can only recommend this "anticyclic" way of travelling. As an employee of the travel industry I noticed, that due to pretty empty trains, ships, aeroplanes travelling can now be a tranquil experience, places aren't crowded - this is like travelling before WWII, when only the rich and famous could afford these trips! If you maintain social distancing, you will be safe. I went on 2 river cruises and 2 seagoing cruises in August/September 2020 and I'm still corona-negative!
Another perk: very low fares! So, when ever air travel between Northern America and Europe opens again, don't hesitate. This is the unique chance to see world-famous places at a relax mode, never seen before.
TUI Cruises is a German line. The language is German, but: everybody speaks english, and all the service crew from Asia etc. speaks much better English than German. I think American guests would feel very much at home here. The cozy homing style on the ships appeared very comfortable. Most beverages (except very expensive Cognacs, Champagnes etc.) were included, there is no extra service charge. Dining was at a very high standard. The restaurant "fish market" offered some really tasty meals from rivers and sea - included!
The buffet was open, but no self-service. Lots of helpful souls were waiting for us, helping us to fill our dishes and bowls. The serviced restaurant "Atlantik" was a lovely place with nice decoration, excellent service, surprisingly delicious meals.
There was a small, but fine entertainment, on board. Comedy, of course in German, also a talented and unusually inventive piano player, musician who could imitate almost every artist: Elvis, Buddy Holly, Neil Diamond, Beatles - amazing. The audience went wild (as wild as safety precautions allowed us to be...). Bars, music in bars, open decks, the Mein Schiff fleet really offers a very special kind of "Feel-Good-Cruising". I have always been a fan of international cruise lines, but this cruise allowed me to discover another facet of what cruising can be. Will definitely do it again :-)
The state room was big enough, had a double bed which could be converted into two singles, which we did. Lighting, TV, desk, curtain, balcony, doors, bathroom, lockers, drawers, electric outlets, everything was the way you might expect from a modern curise ship. There was one outlet at one bedside, which I found a bit old-fashioned, because sitting in bed and playing with a smartphone or tablet computer is common today. Anyway, we had a really good time in this room!
Checkin In was very easy. Due to the very low number of passengers there was only a small crowd of people in the terminal. We have been temperature-checked, everything was a high sanitary standards and fine, we came on board within a few minutes. Best check in ever!