There’s no doubt the pandemic has roused a tempest that has put everybody’s cruising hopes on hold, but favourable winds are gradually coming our way, especially with recent news that river cruises in Europe have set sail again!
As the world gradually opens up to tourism, more voyages will be back on the cards, and many will want to be assured that they can cruise safely before booking their holiday. For peace of mind, the cruise lines are all working in line with the team of top scientific experts at the CDC to keep guests and crew protected. This commitment to the well-being of all on board means that strict measures will be in place.
The CDC has a 267-page rule book to ensure cruise ship cleanliness, so ships will be regularly checked, tested and scored. In fact, it would not be possible for any ship to take on passengers until it has been through rigorous scrutiny! In order to pass muster, a ship must achieve a grade at least of 86/100. Without reaching that minimum target, it will not be permitted to leave for any destination. According to CDC’s No Sail Order:
“In response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and the increased risk of spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships, CDC published the first industry-wide No Sail Order on March 14 to prevent, among other things, new passengers from boarding cruise ships. CDC extended its No Sail Order, effective April 15, 2020, to continue to suspend all cruise ship operations in waters subject to US jurisdiction. Among other things, cruise lines are required to develop comprehensive plans to prevent, detect, respond to, and contain COVID-19 on their cruise ships to protect the health and safety of both passengers and crew.”
Ships that have received a score of 100 since October 2019 include Carnival Valor, Disney Dream, Disney Wonder, Koningsdam, Norwegian Sky, Viking Sea, and Viking Sky. More ships will soon be joining their ranks, but what does it take to “COVID-proof” a ship? Let’s take a brief look behind the scenes to see what steps some cruise lines will be taking to hold the virus threat at bay.
“The industry indeed probably applies the most rigid sanitation protocols…Many of you will be aware that cruise ships have for decades brought innovation to the world of travel, utilising pioneering technologies…we try to design and build our ships so that there is little to no re-circulation of air within our ships and our filtration systems are some of the best systems in the world.”
As Damien O’Connor, Senior Vice President Hotel Operations & OBR at Silversea, mentions in the video, hygiene is of the utmost importance, and will be taken very seriously by crew members who will ensure all areas on ships are thoroughly cleansed on a regular basis from top to bottom. Not only will they be trained in first aid, but licensed medical practitioners and registered nurses will be available every moment of your holiday, along with the necessary equipment, from defibrillators to cardiac monitors etc.
Pre-boarding health screenings are to be undertaken to help identify ill passengers or crew members prior to boarding. Those who may be ill will be assessed by medical staff before they interact with other guests. Furthermore, many cruise ships will continue to undergo unannounced health inspections on top of their scheduled assessments.
Ex-crew worker, Brian David Bruns, explains in his book “Cruise a la Carte” that cruise ships must be cleaned “above and beyond” the standards of most land businesses. Another crew member has previously said that on the last day of every cruise they would do a 2-hour special clean at the kids activity centre, sterilising literally every nook and cranny. All the toys get steam cleaned, and those with with small holes or crevices get hand-washed and even a good going-over with q-tips!
As the spaciousness of most ships allow guests to easily social distance, much of onboard life can still proceed with little inconvenience. However, the least-loved but most
crucial parts of a cruise holiday – the safety drill, a mandatory aspect as per maritime law — has required an overhaul. Enter Royal Caribbean’s Muster 2.0™, an entirely new approach to this requirement. It will use first-of-its-kind technology, eMuster™, to deliver essential information — including reviewing what to expect and where to go in case of an emergency, plus instructions on how to properly use a life jacket, and more — to individuals on their mobile devices and interactive stateroom TVs, thus eliminating the need for traditional large group assemblies.
Initiatives such as this that give guests more freedom to enjoy their journey, together with the comprehensive procedures that prevent contamination onboard, will be a welcome relief for those of us who can’t wait for our next cruising holiday. So for any guests already stocking up on packets of antibacterial wipes, put them away, for the cruise lines have got your back!