The major cruise lines have, at last, revealed what cruising out of the United States is going to be like. This includes where they will cruise to, what it will take to get onto the ship and what the on-board experience will be like.
It is not going to please some cruisers. It looks to blow some of cruisers imminent cruises out of the water and will be a very different experience to pre-lockdown. I reveal what the cruise lines have submitted to the CDC (Center For Disease Control and Prevention) for consideration and what it will mean for you if they agree
Watch My Video On The Changes
Watch my video about USA cruise protocols on YouTube
The Healthy Sailing Panel formed by Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Groups completed and issued a 65 page report with 74 recommendations for return of cruising out of the USA, which has been submitted to the CDC. I want to share and discuss the 6 biggest things affecting us as cruisers the most
Limited And Staggered Return
First of all, that cruise you have booked in the coming months looks unlikely to run, even when no-sail is lifted. The proposal is for limited and staggered return of cruising out of the USA to be put in place to trial and test these new protocols.
These would be short cruises of a few nights calling on cruise line private islands or to places where they own and control entire facilities, I guess like Virgin Voyages has with their Bimini Club in the Bahamas.
Ports, it suggests, could be expanded over time to include those that first of all are willing to accept USA residents and cruises, secondly where the lines can be confident that they can safely and in a controlled way visit and thirdly where they agree to accept into their facilities any guests that may have become infected with Covid that need to be disembarked.
Cruise Line Only Excursions
As we saw with the limited return to cruising in Europe, As cruises do start to venture to ports, guests will only be able to leave ships in ports on cruise line excursions.
No self touring will be allowed, nor use of independent tour companies. The proposals suggest costs of these tours will be reduced, a greater variety will be offered, they will focus on outdoor activities ideally and likely only be indoors if the cruise excursion has sole use of the facility. So no visits to build bars or restaurants shared with locals or others.
Avoiding bringing infected passengers and crew onto the ship is the highest priority and measure in the proposals. Testing is, therefore, integral to the resumption of cruising out of the United States.
The USA lines propose a slightly different approach to testing than that used in Europe. The panel of experts has proposed double testing.
First, passengers have to provide a negative Covid test taken between 5 days and 24 hours before joining the ship. This has to be done ideally before leaving to join the cruise to ensure people are not travelling whilst infected. They then propose, subject to a cost effective test being available, ship side testing before boarding. If the later is not possible they will focus on the first test.
Why the two stage approach? They feel this is the safest approach to minimise false negatives and infected passengers getting on board. They do not feel the European approach of the single test pier side is robust enough.
Crew will go through a multi-stage series of tests combined with at least 7-day quarantine as they join ships.
To manage the screening and testing of passengers, cruisers will be given staggered and timed check in times to enable social distancing and the processing time.
While the monitoring of crew is more comprehensive and will include some testing, both crew and passengers will have to undergo a daily temperature check whilst on board. These will likely take place in the evening as (apparently) this is when you more likely to show a high temperature if you are infected according to the report. On some European cruises they have been doing this as you enter the dining venues, which seems a simple way to do these.
Much to many cruisers dismay, based on the comments I get on the channel, masks and face coverings will play a role on board cruises out of the USA. Certainly for as long as the CDC recommends their use in the United States. They propose that passengers will need to war them in all indoor areas, even when social distancing measures are in place. They will not have to be worn in cabins and when seated in dining venues and bars (which have to have social distancing layout and procedures in place).
There will be a raft of social distancing measures. A new approach to Muster Drills is recommended, though not spelt out, to reduce people congregating. We have seen reports of this being done via Cruise Line Apps for example. Events like pool parties which attract crowds gathering will be scrapped and across the ship other social distancing measures will be in place. These include spacing out loungers at the pool, separating tables at restaurants or leaving some empty, blocking off certain seats in the theaters, blocking off some slot machines to allow space between guests, and moving activities outdoors where possible (e.g., holding yoga class on the ship deck rather than in the gym).
Behind the scenes there will be many other things taking place. These include installation of ventilation filters to screen out viruses, more use of fresh air in air conditioning, crew in single cabins where possible and social distancing plans for their facilities, increased medical staff and facilities and plans on how to isolate and quarantine passengers if there is a breakout.
What is not clear?
It so not clear from these proposals what happens if a passenger and their party are refused boarding as they fail testing or screening. This is a big unknown that needs to be laid out in detail in my view.
It is also not yet clear on the details of what happens if there is an outbreak, other than the plans are trying to avoid whole ships being put into quarantine through use on on-board track and trace to identify those who may have been exposed and the need for plans with ports and land-based agencies and medical facilities to avoid the situations in the run up to the lockdown.
No doubt these will be made clearer as the lines get into the detail of return to sail as they negotiate the specifics with the CDC and ports. When this will take place is, of course, still a big unknown and gap as the CDC still has to fully engage with the lines and agree when and cruising can return.
What do you think of these proposals? Would you be wiling to sail as cruises resume with these?
Gary Bembridge’s Tips For Travellers aims to help you make more of your precious travel time and money on land and when cruising the oceans or rivers of the world. To help you, in every video I draw on my first-hand tips and advice from travelling every month for over 20 years and average of 10 cruises a year.
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