How Cruise Ships Set Sail Again During Covid 1928 April 2021
When you take a cruise during a pandemic, daily activities look and feel quite different from pre-COVID-19 times. Breakfast is served at socially distanced tables after a pre-meal temperature check. At night, you can dance at a club, provided you cover your face and give other passengers a wide berth. The pool is open, kept clean by staffers in face shields and protective jumpsuits who also spray the lounge chairs with disinfectants.
Cruise ships made headlines early in the year when they became floating coronavirus superspreader events, forcing crew and passengers to seek medical attention, evacuate, or quarantine, and leading to 3,689 cases and at least 41 reported dead in the U.S. alone. Now, with new safety protocols and far fewer passengers on board, a handful of jumbo ships have resumed sailing from European and Southeast Asian ports.
How Cruise Ships Set Sail Again During Covid 19
Medical experts warned that “all people avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide, because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high.” But in Europe and Asia, a few cruise lines resumed operations this summer. German-based Hapag-Lloyd Cruises was one of the first, sailing out of Hamburg starting in July. New safety precautions onboard included a mandatory health questionnaire, staggered boarding, daily temperature checks, and reducing its passenger load by 60 percent.
Before boarding, each guest—limited to residents of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland—had to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test. The company also installed an onboard testing lab and hired doctors and nurses to travel with the ship. Cold fog machines that spew antiviral disinfectant were used to clean cabins and public areas. So far, after 30 completed trips carrying more than 4,000 guests, no COVID cases have been reported.
Other lines, including Royal Caribbean, MSC Cruises, and Dream Cruises, require temperature checks, a slate of COVID tests onboard, and timed reservations for pool and gym access. Buffet stations are no longer self-serve, and safety muster drills (training on evacuation protocols) are streamed on stateroom TVs instead of happening in person. Crew members are usually tested and quarantined prior to boarding the ship.
New Onboard Practices
Many of these new practices—like limiting capacity or restricting sailings to people from certain countries—are being implemented temporarily, and aren’t economically sustainable in the long term. The current measures are a way to help get this industry back on its feet, while still delivering a safe and healthy experience.
Port Stops and Shore Excursions
Cruise lines claim they are creating social pods or bubbles by only allowing passengers and crew who have tested negative for COVID-19 aboard. However, once travellers disembark to explore any port cities along the route, they risk bursting those bubbles. To protect the health of guests and the local community, companies such as Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line are stopping only at private islands. Other cruise lines, such as MSC, attempt to make offshore excursions safer with sanitized, socially distanced transportation and guides who have tested negative for COVID-19. In some cases, passengers must take a rapid COVID-19 test and receive a negative result before coming back onboard.
Ng, R. (2020, December 10). Why cruise ships are setting sail again as COVID-19 rages. Retrieved April 06, 2021, from National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/article/how-cruise-ships-are-sailing-again-during-coronavirus
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