If you’re thinking about a family vacation for next summer, cruise lines plan to be sailing again, with strict safety measures in place.
In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lifted the no-sail order it imposed on cruises in March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. But most major cruise lines aren’t planning to resume voyages until 2021, using the remainder of this year to implement the CDC’s health and safety requirements.
The CDC has issued a 40-page document outlining steps that cruise operators must take before being allowed to sail. They include protocols for extensive testing and social distancing onboard. When cruise lines meet all of the CDC requirements, ships will be allowed to go on simulated voyages to test their ability to mitigate the risk of COVID-19.
Only after that will they be allowed to resume sailing with passengers.
The Cruise Lines International Association has a long track record of working with the CDC on health and safety issues. Seventy-four recommendations contained in the association’s Healthy Sail Plan echo many of the CDC’s requirements. Panel members include physicians with extensive experience in public health. The plan gives cruise passengers some idea of what to expect on their next voyage.
Some of the changes may not be visible and others will, hopefully, never need to be used. For example, ships are upgrading their heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. The crew will be trained in hygiene and infection control. Cruise lines are increasing the number of medical staff onboard, bolstering treatment facilities, adding equipment including the ability to test for COVID-19, designating quarantine cabins and drawing up detailed plans for taking passengers off the ship in a medical emergency.
Both crew members and passengers will be required to submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding the ship. Passengers will undergo a health screening, including having their temperature taken. Touchless check-in and measures to make boarding go more quickly will help reduce congestion.
Onboard, passengers and crew will be required to wear masks, and all areas of the ship will be modified to ensure physical distancing, with signs indicating the safe amount of separation. There’ll be plenty of hand-sanitizing or hand-washing stations around the ship. Passengers will be encouraged to use them before and after they participate in recreational activities.
All passengers and crew will have to undergo a daily temperature check.
In the initial phase, there’ll be fewer passengers to allow for safe distancing onboard. Cruise lines will offer simple itineraries with voyages that are shorter in length, and only stop in ports where the onshore experience can be controlled.
Passengers will only be allowed to disembark at ports if they’re participating in excursions sponsored by or verified by the cruise line, in order to limit the potential for exposure to the coronavirus. Indoor excursions will be offered only if protective measures like masks and distancing can be implemented.
For help navigating any travel plans, contact your travel advisor at Travel Leaders/Fly Away Travel.