The Return of Cruising

As news of the first cruises of the season trickle in, we can’t help but wonder what the return of cruising will look like. Guests may prefer smaller cruises, sailings closer to home – perhaps river cruising will see an uptick in popularity. Returning to cruising will be a complicated and cautious road, with the need for careful choices to be made to ensure the health and safety of trusting guests. We’ve explored some of the possibilities of what cruise will look like in the future, taking note of those cruise lines that have already returned to the waters, those that have announced measures they’re putting in place, and speculation from key players in the industry.

Localised cruising

Will passengers prefer to start slow, opting for cruise itineraries that are closer to home? Viking Cruises certainly think so, proposing a return to domestic cruising in a letter sent to regular customers. The operator stated that additional training had been provided to staff during the sailing downtime, and that any cruises were subject to government advice and approvals from the relevant authorities.

Cruising domestically removes the risk of transmission between countries, and nullifies the need for a post-cruise quarantine period. Avid cruisers in the Scandinavian countries may be sailing sooner than the rest of the world, with two cruise lines in Norway announcing the resumption of sailing in June for Norwegians, with the possibility of the wider Scandinavian community being able to sail with them dependent on travel restrictions.

Experienced expedition cruise line Hurtigruten plans to resume operations in Norwegian ports on June 16, with Finnmarken departing from Bergen and sailing along the Norwegian coast. Maritime Executive outlined Hurtigruten’s return-to-cruise guidelines, which are to include each crew member completing WHO’s official COVID-19 course for hygiene procedures and infection management, as well as increased cleaning and hygiene procedures on board. Capacity on board will be limited as expected, and no self-service dining will be provided.

Elsewhere in Norway, luxury yacht cruise line SeaDream announced sailings of their SeaDream I between Bergen and Oslo, operating 7- and 12-day voyages.

Hurtigruten Finnmarken, one of the first cruise ships to return to the waters

The rise of river cruising

River cruising was experiencing a period of high growth before the pandemic hit – we explore why people choose river cruise with Lauren West of AmaWaterways here. This type of cruising is also the first back on the waters, with German cruise line Nicko Cruises’ nickoVISION sailing along the Danube and Rhine rivers on June 1st.

The appeal is clear: a smaller vessel means fewer passengers and crew, meaning reduced potential for a carrier. The size also makes the ship easier to clean and allows for measures such as the sanitisation of luggage before departure, which is coupled with body temperature checks and antibody tests. Crew are supplied protective face coverings and gloves, and guests are asked to wear face masks in corridors, gangways, and during excursions. Capacity on board nickoVISION is restricted to two-thirds that of a normal voyage, and the spa, pool, and gym are closed.

These measures are to be expected in place for a while, and are fairly easy to manage on a small river cruise ship with limited passengers. But what happens when a ‘floating city’ sets back out on the waters? Norwegian Cruise Line is one of the first to announce changes.

Norwegian’s new health protocols

Norwegian Cruise Line recently announced a number of changes and upgrades to their fleet and processes in line with their Peace of Mind Policy. In addition to adding a Public Health Officer to the crew on each ship and expanding the medical staff, Norwegian are taking several measures to ensure the safety on the onboard environment.

Medical-grade air filters that remove 99.95% of airborne pathogens are being installed, all ships will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before each sailing, and continuous monitoring of all guests and crew will be implemented. The sanitisation process that already takes place throughout all cabins and public areas will be scheduled more regularly, and the spaces will be subject to Electrostatic Spray Technology, which includes fogging with a non-toxic disinfectant.

Cruise lines across the board are expected to follow with similar measures, using the time whilst not sailing to implement any changes needed.

Interestingly, Norwegian have stated that buffets and beverage stations will be at full service, with staff available to serve guests. This is at odds with announcements from Hurtigruten, and with speculation within the industry as to the future of the buffet – however, as expected the cruise line won’t run at full capacity, easing the pressure on cleaning teams.

The Return of Cruising…

Cruises are slowly but surely returning. Some cruise lines have announced intent to set sail in June, while some, such as Cunard, are staying off the waters until closer to the end of the year. There is much speculation as to how most regular occurrences, such as travelling, dining out, and shopping will take place moving forwards – and cruise contains all of these. The return of cruising is shaping up, and will continue to evolve month-on-month – so keep your eyes out!

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