Cruising in the ‘New Normal’
The COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on the travel industry, but perhaps no sector has been hit harder than the cruise industry, which has come to a grinding halt in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. As cruise lines and trade groups continue to work closely with health experts and elected officials to chart the best and the safest path forward, only two things appear certain—that cruising will return and that it will be much different than before. Here some of the ways cruising will change.
Cruise ships will more than likely return at limited capacity to allow for physical distancing on board. Beyond reduced passenger numbers, some areas of the ship, especially indoor spaces such as bars, restaurants and entertainment venues, could restrict the number of guests allowed in at a given time.
Enhanced Health Screening, Testing
Temperature screenings are likely to become commonplace when cruising returns. It’s also very possible that some companies could follow in the footsteps of many popular tourist destinations and require a negative COVID-19 test result prior to boarding in addition to a comprehensive health questionnaire. Crew members are also likely to undergo routine testing.
Face Mask Requirements
Face-coverings are ubiquitous at this point, so travelers shouldn’t be caught off guard when cruise ships make masks mandatory in public spaces and in situations where physical distancing isn’t feasible. That doesn’t necessarily mean that passengers will have to have their nose and mouth covered at all times.
Physical Distancing Protocols
Cruise passengers should anticipate plenty of indicators of social distancing protocols, including floor markers, spaced out seating in restaurants and other areas and plexiglass barriers where necessary.
Staggered Boarding, Disembarkation
Crowds are a big no-no in the time of coronavirus, so cruise passengers shouldn’t be surprised to see staggered boarding and disembarkation processes designed to limit the number of travelers confined to close quarters before and after the voyage. Mobile solutions could also be implemented to speed things up and eliminate crowds.
A New Way to Buffet, If at All
It’s likely that some cruise lines will simply do away with the buffet altogether. However, others may eventually resurrect the beloved dining concept while ensuring a more hygienic approach by requiring PPE-equipped staff to serve guests.
Additional Hand Washing, Sanitizing Stations
Frequent hand washing is one of the easiest things travelers can do to combat COVID-19, so expect cruise lines to install more hand washing stations and hand sanitizer dispensers throughout their ships, giving passengers more opportunities to rid themselves of potentially harmful germs that could lead to an outbreak.
Reduced Shore Excursions
With destinations implementing their own safety protocols and travel restrictions to minimize the spread of COVID-19, cruise lines will likely be limited in terms of what their guests can do at various cruise ports. That means shore excursions are likely to be significantly reduced when cruising initially returns. In some cases, passengers may simply be required to wear face-coverings and practice social distancing in order to participate in land tours or other excursions safely.
Virtual Muster Drills
Depending on your patience level, muster drills can be a necessary evil of cruising, but the safety precaution will likely look much different in a post-COVID world with Royal Caribbean already introducing an electronic version that allows guests to review the relevant safety information from their stateroom TVs or mobile devices before visiting their assigned assembly stations to confirm their participation while avoiding the typically mass gatherings around the ship.
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