Cruise with Confidence: New Cruise Experience
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, cruise lines are introducing enhanced health and safety protocols throughout their ships. While each line has their own specific policies, which you can read more about here, their focus is on making sure that guests and crew are safe from beginning to end of their cruise holiday.
Embarkation and Disembarkation
Prior to stepping onto the ships, cruise lines are making sure that boarding can take place in a safe manner, as well as when disembarking and heading off on shore excursions.
Before stepping aboard, cruise lines will check that all guests and crew are well enough to cruise. This includes everything from pre-cruise health questionnaires to contactless temperature checks and additional screening for those most at risk, as well as rapid covid-19 testing where possible. Many cruise lines will then continue monitoring throughout the cruise- especially their crew- who will undergo regular testing and temperature checks. Anyone who displays flu-like symptoms may be denied entry to the cruise ship.
To maintain high levels of hygiene, embarkation terminals will be regularly cleaned, and fogged where possible, after each embarkation and disembarkation. Some cruise lines, such as Virgin Voyages, will also fog all luggage and other items before they are loaded onto the ship.
To ensure that social distancing can be maintained, cruise lines will encourage online check-in and introduce staggered embarkation and arranged boarding times to avoid large groups of guests assembling at the same time. For those embarking on a Princess Cruises voyage, guests will be able to make use of the OceanMedallion for contact-free and streamlined check-in. Once checked in, Royal Caribbean Group ensure guests receive safety information with minimal contact via Muster 2.0, an innovative eMuster app. Muster 2.0 is available onboard Royal Caribbean, Azamara Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Hapag Lloyd.
Cruise lines will work with destinations to ensure that guests will be safe once ashore, with some, such as MSC Cruises, recommending that guests book MSC-led excursions which will adhere to the cruise line's healthy and safety protocols. As the situation continues to be monitored, ships' itineraries may also be altered to make sure that they are only visiting ports of call which are safe.
So guests can have peace of mind even once their cruise has ended, cruise lines such as Virgin Voyages are developing their own notification process so that guests will be informed should anyone who was onboard become unwell once the holiday is over.
Cleaning and Sanitation
While cruise lines already have stringent protocols when it comes to onboard cleaning and sanitation, in light of the coronavirus pandemic, more rigorous measures are being introduced, with staff being trained on COVID-19 cleaning methods.
Public spaces, staterooms and suites
In public venues, such as restaurants, bars and lounges, the frequency of cleaning will be increased. In addition, surfaces which are often touched, including handrails and door handles will be continuously cleaned. To encourage guests to clean their hands often, hand sanitizer stations are conveniently located throughout the ships. Where possible, cruise lines are also fogging public spaces to ensure a thorough clean.
The increased frequency cleaning will also apply to staterooms and suites, with MSC Cruises even introducing twice-daily cabin cleaning. All cabins will also be deep-cleaned at the end of each cruise ready for the next guests.
Air Filtration Systems
To make sure that the air guests breathe onboard is fresh and clean, cruise lines have been upgrading their air filtration systems to some of the most state-of-the-art out there.
In order to facilitate social distancing onboard, many cruise lines will be reducing the guest capacity of their ships. On top of this, there will also be some changes to the onboard venues to make sure that guests can stay a safe distance apart, and masks may be required where this isn't possible. Innovative gadgets such as the OceanMedallion will also allow guests to order drinks directly to their location, minimising crowds and contact with staff.
In restaurants, tables will be spaced further apart so that groups can maintain social distancing when dining. Where possible, buffets will be replaced by table service, with staff wearing protective clothing such as masks and gloves if needed.
While onboard activities and entertainment will still take place, there will be some changes. The capacity in venues such as theatres will be reduced, with empty spaces in between guests. In addition, activities will take place in smaller groups.
Out on deck, many cruise lines will add markings to indicate how to stay socially distant from others, as well as limiting the number of people allowed on decks and in areas such as the pools. Items such as sun loungers and daybeds will be frequently cleaned.
While cruise ships already carry medical crew and equipment, following the COVID-19 outbreak, these will be enhanced to make sure that guests are safe at all times.
Medical personnel and equipment
With cruise ships already carrying medical personnel, many lines will be increasing the number onboard. This will be the same for medical equipment, while there will also be the necessary equipment for rapid COVID-19 testing. In addition, isolation accommodation will be made available should the need arise, as well as ventilators.