What exactly is it like on board a cruise that has resumed sailing with all the new rules and protocols?
I’m going to show you how you things look and work, and what you can expect when you can cruise again. New protocols and procedures have changed the way cruises operate. So how does it really look and work in practice?
I am Gary Bembridge, and although I am still not able to cruise, a follower of the channel (Tomas Medek from the Czech Republic) has been able to, and has given me footage so I can show you what cruising is now like.
Tomas and wife, Dominika, cruised on MSC Grandisoa which has been cruising out of Genoa with around 60% of usual capacity carrying guests from EU countries.
I want to show you and discuss 9 key aspects of the new cruise experience that stood out to me
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First of all, embarkation Travellers are allocated a specific time to check in. This is to enable physical distancing in the terminal, and time for a detailed screening and a Covid-19 swab test to be conducted on everyone. This pre-embarkation test, by the way, is included the fare.
It takes around 70 minutes to get your result. If you test negative your carry-on bags are disinfected and you head on board. It can take up to an hour and half to get on board with all the new procedures.
Secondly, on arrival in your cabin, there is a briefing pack. This has detailed information about the safety protocols and rules, also there is a supply of masks. Masks have to be worn inside the ship when moving around, and in other settings when social distancing is not possible. Masks can be removed when seated for dining or drinking.
Masks were worn by passengers in many settings across the ship, including many choosing to wear them moving around outside. Wearing of masks in all settings has become required in various countries or cities in Europe, and so it is not surprising to see this on the ship sailing out of Italy.
Masks were also worn by the crew at all times, and even the entertainers when performing in places where they were close to passengers, such as when the dancers performed in the large MSC Grandiosa atrium walkway.
TRACKING WEARABLE DEVICE
The other item included in the safety pack is a wearable device. This helps to collect data on where passengers were. So, if there is a Covid case on the ship they have data to do a smarter track and trace, and do not necessarily have to quarantine the entire ship as they can focus on only people that came into contact with that person.
This is a good incentive for guests to comply and carry them at all times. But it was not compulsory.
A similar device is also being used by the Carnival Corporation group’s Costa cruises, which have adapted the Princess Cruises Medallion for their start up cruises to do the same thing. This device replaces the cruise card and is used to pay for purchases, order drinks remotely and even open cabin doors.
There is one positive change that has happened. This is a totally new approach to the muster drill security briefing. Passengers are not required to go to the muster station.
Everyone can watches a safety briefing video on their cabin TV. It ends with unique code and then guests have to call in this code to dedicated line on their cabin phone to prove they have seen the whole video.
After that guests have around 2 hours to go to their designated muster station and scan their cards there to prove they know where to go in case of emergency. Maybe one good change to come out from the Covid protocols is this muster drill approach!
DAILY TEMPERATURE CHECKS
The fifth change I want to highlight is that every guest has their cruise card scanned and their temperature taken every day before lunch in the lido, and in the evening before dinner in main restaurant.
The thermometers were bluetooth connected to the tablets and appear to be then uploaded to everyone’s profile so the ship can identify and act if something is wrong.
Next area to highlight is excursions. It has been well publicised that you can only leave the ship in port on a cruise line excursions as part of the new protocols allowing cruises to resume.
These are strictly controlled, with temperature checks before and after, wearing of masks, smaller group sizes, use of individual earpieces to listen to the guide commentary so you can keep distance from others and you cannot leave the tour for any reason, including going into shops or bars.
MSC Cruises threw one family off one of the early MSC Grandisoa cruises for leaving the tour.
MSC have reduced the cost of excursions and you can buy packages of 3 for 100 Euros to make these a bit more accessible. Though many cruisers want to wait until they can freely go into ports, this will not happen until countries are comfortable with that. For now, cruisers like Tomas and others on these cruises are happy to have this limitation. I certainly am one of those.
What about dining? The key area of change to discuss is the buffet. The Lido buffet has survived on MSC Cruises, and in fact other lines starting up.
However, there is no self service and food is behind clear screens and all served by the crew. This is something that was already in place on some lines even before the pandemic. But now there is absolutely no self selection of items.
To assist with distancing there are tables and chairs marked not to be used in the buffet restaurant as well.
When it come to social distancing, the lower capacity impact is clear to see with fewer people around the ship and in places like the pool deck.
Around the ship there are signs and rules to enable physical distancing, as already mentioned tables and chairs are blocked in some venues, there are limits on how many people can attend the theatre at any one time, one way systems exist and around the pool, the deck chairs are spaced out and signs advise you cannot move them.
CLEANING AND DISINFECTING
Of course, there are more cleansing procedures taking place both in the cabins, but across the ship passengers will constantly see deep cleaning of pretty much everything including the deck chairs, equipment and so on.
Hopefully this insight and look at what it is actually like on board a cruise with the new protocols has been interesting and helped allay your fears about how things will be. Thanks again to Tomas for filming all of his experience and letting me share them with you.
I have loads more cruise updates and tips videos, so why not watch another one right now?
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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