What will Cruising be like after Cruises Resume?
So the big question on everyone lips when cruises resume, is what will the experience be like? There is no doubt cruising will be different, but how will it affect the enjoyment of your cruise? In this article, we explore the various protocols that you may find applicable to your next cruise. There will undoubtedly be differences between Ocean Cruises and River Cruises with protocol variations relating to the size of ship and itinerary. We may well see larger ships with thousand of passengers adopt different strategies than smaller vessels. Still, the underlying message is that these new protocols will raise the bar even higher in the areas of health, safety, sanitation, and medical care.
So what do we think will be different, and how will it affect your cruise?
It is important to note that whilst the Coronavirus Pandemic is active, the world is in a crisis, and vacation travel and cruising at the moment is considered non-essential. Many companies and countries are working with reduced availability of medical resources, and everyone should be doing their part to limit the spread of COVID-19.
We do not advise or endorse or advise travelling or cruising against government travel advisories.
COVID Testing Before you cruise
Even before you arrive at your ship, depending on your embarkation port, there may be a requirement to produce evidence of a negative COVID 19 test before you are allowed in that particular country, let alone on the ship. Some countries will have quarantine requirements on arrival, so it is essential to check with your government guidance on this matter.
Pre-boarding health checks
On embarkation day and before boarding, it is most likely that all passengers, and crew, will need to be tested for COVID 19 and face a mandatory touch-free temperature scan.
You may also require a secondary medical check by health professionals. Before you re allowed onboard, you will have to wait for a Negative confirmed test. Any passenger who tests positive or who has symptoms of illness (and perhaps, who has travelled internationally within 14 days) is likely to be denied boarding.
The cost of repatriation in these situations is a little unclear but will likely come down to having the right travel insurance in place before your travel. Check that all COVID 19 risks are covered. Some cruise lines and travel agents are already offering comprehensive COVID 19 Insurance policies to guard against potential issues arising from not being allowed to board.
Embarkation will be different
You should expect significant changes in the whole embarkation process, beginning with staggered boarding times. You will be given a time slot when to arrive and will only be allowed to check within your allocated check-in window. Everything will be touchless as far as possible.
Most cruise lines will also sanitize all luggage before loading on to the ship. Passengers will be required to wear masks in all public areas while waiting to board. There will also be lots of plexiglass screens everywhere to protect staff and passengers alike. You will be required to wear a face covering and adhere to social distancing.
It may become more prudent to travel with smaller and lighter pieces of luggage in the case where protocols dictate you are required to carry your bags to your stateroom.
Social Distancing onboard
Social distancing will be mandatory onboard in public spaces, from coffee bars to pool decks and when moving around the ship. It is unclear at this time what other areas on boar will require the wearing of masks but expect the list to grow to include entertainment, lecture and dance venues.
Reduced Occupancy rates
One of the big game changers will initially see the cruise lines operating ships at reduced occupancy rates. 60-70% rates will likely be the norm. It will be a challenge for the cruise lines to make any money with fewer passengers, but it is a good start, and it will hopefully boost confidence in the cruise industry.
Electronic wristbands for touch-less transactions
Many cruise lines have now introduced apps or wristband devices for passengers. These will allow you to pay for everything on board and even open your stateroom door. In the coming months, such technology will likely become a standard feature with all cruise lines so that all onboard transactions become touch-less.
These devices and apps will also track your movement and interactions whilst on board. Plus they will act as contact tracking devices in case of COVID 19 infections on the ship.
If you don’t want to wear a mask, don’t go on a cruise. It won’t be forever, but this it will be like for the foreseeable future. You will be expected to wear a face-covering when moving around the ship and when in close quarters to other passengers or crew.
It seems that some cruise lines will try to group activities by age group so that similar age travellers will mix primarily with those people in the same age group.
Cruises to Nowhere – Limited Itineraries
After the resumption of cruising, the cruise lines will start by offering shorter cruises with limited itineraries. Expect to see cruises that stay within a particular territory. Aida has already begun with cruises in Germany offering cruises around the German coast and MSC Cruises offering Italian cruises for its nationals. There may also be cruises that don’t stop anywhere aimed primarily at those people who want to experience cruising again and get their fix.
Goodbye to the Buffet
When cruises resume, the traditional buffet will be gone. So you will no longer have to put up with crowds of folk bunged up around the food picking over it until they see something they like. All in all, a good thing really, and the self-service element of the buffet will disappear. The crew will serve all your food for you whilst maintaining social distancing.
Expect this to be a ‘work in progress’, and it will be interesting to see how the cruise lines rise to the buffet challenge and develop new protocols. Perhaps everyone will have a designated time when they can visit the buffet.
Anyone who has taken a cruise will have participated in the muster drill. The Muster Drill is where crewmembers give passengers instructions on what to do in the event of an emergency whilst on board. Typically passengers are all required to stand on deck or meet in large groups to hear the safety procedures explained, generally by the captain.
Cruise lines are coming up with innovative ways to overcome this issue and maintain social distancing.
Passengers will likely be able to review safety information on a cabin TV or their mobile device. Then they will report to their muster stations where a crew member will ensure that they have completed all the necessary steps and answer any questions the passengers may have.
No Mixed Dining
Depending on the Cruise Line, you may be asked to pre-book a table in the restaurants and specialitity dining venues. The buffets and deck grills will now be served by waiting staff and you will only be permitted to dine with your travelling group or household. Restaurants and bars are being adapted to ensure you can enjoy your experience and maintain social distancing in line with guidance.
Stateroom sanitation and disinfection
When cruises resume, you will notice a real focus on stateroom sanitization. The quick wipe-down with a cloth will be a thing of the past. Room attendants will thoroughly sanitize and disinfect every room to the new standards.
Say goodbye to the nightly paper version of the daily cruise planner. These will either be accessible on your stateroom TV or through the ship’s app on your phone or tablet.
There may be a personal safety kit comprising things like hand sanitizer, gloves, wipes and even masks for every stateroom.
Enhanced measures will ensure all areas of cruise ships are even more thoroughly and regularly cleaned, with products which have proven effectiveness against COVID-19. There will be added hand sanitiser and hand-washing facilities available throughout the ship.
Shore Excursions will be Different.
A big part of cruising for most people is the excitement of visiting different ports to explore the local sights. This will be different now, and Shore Excursions may be limited to Cruise Company organized trips only so that you are are in a controlled bubble. Stray outside the bubble, and you may not be allowed back on the ship!. You may also expect to find sanitized coaches, and reduced passenger capacity in the vehicles used. The shore excursion itinerary will be pre-screened for sanitation and social distancing protocols—and ports may also have their own set of rules which may limit what you can or can’t do.
Medical Grade Air Filtration
Many cruise lines have announced they plan to refit their cruise ships with hospital-grade HEPA filters and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation.
Social distancing in Public Areas on the ship will be the norm, and such areas may close early for intensive sanitizing and disinfection.
Much like restaurants, some of cruise ships’ top attractions will have limitations to encourage social distancing. Theatres, cinemas, clubs and many other indoor spaces will be reorganized to maintain social distancing and keep people 1m or 2m away from each other.
Gyms and Spas may initially close showers, whirlpools, steam rooms, and saunas. Libraries could be temporality closed until an easy way of sanitizing books is found. Instead, cruise lines will offer reading materials, such as magazines and newspapers, via digital apps.
Enhanced Medical facilities
The cruise lines have embarked on an impressive array of new protocols to protect passengers and crew. Along with enhanced medical screenings and training for the crew, Cruise ships will need to improve and expand their medical facilities on board. Isolation facilities will be provided for those testing positive for the virus before being transferred to medical facilities ashore. Medical personnel may also conduct additional temperature checks before and after port visits, and extend coronavirus testing whilst at sea.
The good news is that while some of the Cruise Lines COVID-19 protocols are likely to be relaxed over time, stricter shipboard sanitation and disinfection procedures are likely to continue long-term. As a result, the risk of catching an infectious disease beyond COVID-19, such as influenza, norovirus and even the common cold may reduce.