Cruise Ships Prepare to Sail Again

By Adriaan Brits Thursday, July 9, 2020

Those who have been wondering when they can cruise again may find that it’s earlier than they think.

With COVID-19 winding down, cruise ships are working towards restoring their sails. Some cruise lines are preparing to rigorously enforce new health and sanitary procedures to protect passengers and crews from potential onboard outbreaks. However, the US government’s No Sail Order applies to cruise ships carrying more than 250 passengers until July 24 this year.

What to Expect on a Post-Pandemic Cruise

Drawing from safety guidelines set in place by two top cruise lines — primarily Norwegian Cruise Lines and Princess Cruise Lines — here are some new procedures you may experience when embarking on your next cruise:

Safety Screenings Before Boarding

Cruise staff will screen passengers before boarding, and secondary health workers are likely to be subjected to testing. The ship may also refuse boarding to passengers with disease symptoms — and possibly those who traveled internationally within the previous 14 days.

Before loading, employees will sanitize luggage. The boarding process may also take longer in order to stagger the crowds of passengers.

Capped Passenger Numbers

Cruise ships — especially big ocean liners like Norwegian Cruise Lines — have decided to sail with fewer passengers to improve social distancing between guests and staff members.

Improved Cleaning Measures

Frequent and in-depth disinfection will be required in all public areas, and prominent hand sanitation stations will be implemented on ships — particularly in high traffic areas. Cruise ships may increase turnaround time for deeper hygiene and disinfection between trips.

Some cruise lines, such as Avalon Waterways, have introduced a new technology for cleaning. According to managing director Pam Hoffee, "We can use the same ecologically-friendly cleaners to protect against COVID-19 in a way which is more effective with our new electrostatic spray systems.”

Buffets on Pause

Once entering restaurants onboard, passengers must use handwashing stations or hand sanitizers. They can only dine at their designated tables with designated servers for their traveling companions. Single-use paper menus will be given to travelers. Ships may create multiple sitting times, prioritize outdoor dining, or open more venues to reduce the number of passengers who dine simultaneously.

Buffets will either be suspended or equipped with servers that will serve from behind transmission barriers. Any buffet servers will be outfitted with personal protection equipment (PPE).

Self-service coffee and snack bars may also be eliminated, while room service times and menu options may be broadened.

New Stateroom Security

Any paper programs or brochures may be replaced by interactive TV and wireless devices. Masks, gloves, multipurpose disinfectant wipes, and hand bottles for sanitizers will possibly be put in stations, and high-use items such as TV remote controls may be shown with tablets. Indoor cabins with no windows or balconies might not be occupied initially.

Shore Trips Adapted to Port Protocols

Expect sanitized coaches, hand sanitizer stations at every door, and reduced vehicle passenger capacity if you go for tours at each port. The places you visit will possibly be pre-screened for sanitation and social protocols.

American Cruise Lines resumes domestic sailing this month. Chairman and CEO Charles B. Robertson says, "We cooperated closely with the port and community partners around the country and tailor plans to each region[...] We want our activities to make every community we visit comfortable and to trust that we respond to its specific needs."

Early Public Area Closures for Deep Cleaning

Expect social distinction in shared spaces, where hours for intensive sanitation and disinfection can be reduced. Physical distancing regulations will restrict the number of passengers concurrently in fitness centers. A full-time worker may be standing by to distribute towels and other items, as well as to disinfect equipment amongst customers to ensure sanitization. Shared exercise equipment, such as mats, can be available only if previously disinfected. The same applies to common outdoor facilities like bicycles and tennis paddles.

COVID-Educated Staff Members

Cruise crew will be physically distanced, tested, and trained on new safety protocols and PPE. Ships may expand their health centers and the number of medical professionals who can conduct COVID-19 testing, initiate treatment, and isolate passengers before they are transported to medical facilities on the coast. Further temperature checks before and during port visits may be carried out, and coronavirus testing on cruise ships may be conducted throughout the sail.

A Word on Specialty Cruise Lines

Luxury lines face an additional challenge: providing high-end customized passenger experience that complies with safety standards. Ships will also take note of the way passengers travel safely to remote ports.
"Hopefully, we are at a recovery start," says Barbara Muckerman, head of the Silversea marketing department, who is scheduled to start sailing again in August.

The Long-Term Outlook

While such protocols may relax over time, stricter sanitation and disinfection methods on shipboards could continue over the long term. While these measures are being implemented for COVID-19, these safety procedures could also combat the spread of norovirus, influenza, and even the common cold.

About the Author

Headshot of author Adriaan Brits

As an analyst of global affairs, Adriaan has an MSC from Oxford, with diverse interests in the digital economy, entertainment, and business. He is a specialist trainer in Advanced Analytics & Media.

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