In the year 2020 the coronavirus pandemic brought commercial cruise travel to an unforeseeable halt. With travel restrictions and government No Sail Orders suspending voyages, cruise ships have been left scattered in ports worldwide, and even anchored out at sea. Now that the 1 year “anniversary” of the coronavirus pandemic is looming, things are finally starting to look brighter for the cruise industry. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) lifted the No Sail Order on October 30th and launched a Conditional Sailing Order, with new guidelines and safety measures for cruise lines to resume their operations safely. Since the lifting of this ban, the leading commercial cruise lines have been busily preparing to set sail once more. Cruise fanatics and travel enthusiasts have been delighted by this news and have been itching to hop on board a cruise once more, with over 150,000 volunteers signing up for Royal Caribbean’s test cruises! With preparations well underway to resume cruising in 2021, let’s take a look at what changes may take place within the industry this year.
Prior to the COVID pandemic, the confined environment of a cruise ship and the close quarters allowed even the smallest viruses to spread amongst passengers quickly. To protect cruise passengers and crew, the U.S. Congress passed the Cruise Passenger Protection Act, which requires all cruise ships to have a trained doctor on board at all times. In addition, cruise ships must also install video cameras in all public spaces, for higher security for passengers and traceability in case of unexpected events. In addition, each leading cruise line has launched their own health panel to monitor, maintain and establish heightened health and safety protocols.
As identified by the CDC, many viruses, including the coronavirus are airborne and can spread to passengers and crew through ventilation systems and throughout the air in common spaces. To combat this threat, leading cruise lines such as MSC, Norwegian and Royal Caribbean are updating their air ventilation and purification systems to the highest standards. These refurbishments should help to limit the spread of viruses such as the
coronavirus onboard the vessels.
Prior to the COVID pandemic, cancellation and refund policies of many cruise lines were set in stone, and it made cancelling or receiving a refund for a booked cruise quite difficult, if not impossible. Due to the pandemic, the cruise industry has relaxed their policies and provided more flexibility to passengers. This in turn will support passengers as they will have additional security and flexibility with their bookings in case of changes.
Increased health screening for both passengers and crew is set to be implemented by all cruise lines. What does this entail? To maximize safety and health on board, COVID testing will be carried out before boarding the ship and before disembarking in ports. Passengers will also be asked to fill out health questionnaires prior to and during the cruise, to monitor passenger health and ensure they fulfill any border requirements or travel restrictions. Some cruise lines will also adopt daily temperature checks to ensure passengers are healthy. Finally, due to the introduction of a doctor onboard, passengers will have access to improved health services and consultations when necessary. These health screening measures will vary across the cruise lines and country regulations.
At least for the near future, cruise passengers and crew alike will be required to wear face coverings/masks while in public spaces on board cruise ships. This will protect passengers and crew from possible transmission and spread of the coronavirus. Cruise lines have stated that masks will not be necessary in cabins and staterooms, while eating and drinking or participating in exercise or activities where masks cannot be worn.
Large, shared dining rooms and self-service buffets are common on cruise ships, pose a definite health and contagion risk. Therefore, many cruise lines are making changes to dining, by limiting dining room capacity, distancing tables, increasing takeaway options and transforming buffet dining to table service.
To protect both passengers and crew, some cruise lines have implemented additional protective measures on board their ships, such as:
● Restructuring and rearranging public spaces on board, to increase social distancing.
● Introducing plexiglass barriers in restaurants, bars, shops and other public spaces.
● Increasing the number of hand sanitation stations on board the ships.
● Strict cleaning and disinfection measures for all public and private spaces on board.
● Reducing the capacity of passengers on board cruise ships.
● Shortening routes to avoid contagion and spread of the coronavirus.
It is evident that the cruise lines worldwide have been working hard to implement new health and safety measures to ensure a COVID free sailing experience for both passengers and crew. While many cruise lines are still testing out these procedures and are waiting to resume their operations, the cruise lines are hopeful that before long their ships will be bustling with passengers once again in 2021. To start your journey towards your own cruise career, Hospitality Academy offers various cruise course packages that will support your career development, provide you with necessary certifications and provide you with invaluable cruise career coaching! To learn more about our course packages, contact us at [email protected]
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