After unprecedented quarantines aboard ships like Diamond Princess in Japan that saw rapid spread of COVID-19 and many deaths in early 2020, the world watched on as passengers waited helplessly in cabins trying to get off the ship.
But will cruising get back to the way it was before the coronavirus outbreak? In the second installment of our three-part series, Master Travellr takes a look at how cruising will evolve in this post-COVID world as cruise lines look to amplify cleaning protocols and reassure customers of the importance of health and safety.
Before you board
As passengers prepare for their vacation, cruise lines will have to overhaul their healthcare screening to include possible rapid testing, enhanced questionnaires, temperature checks, and even explore integration of immunity passports. These stringent boarding procedures aim to stop people suspected of any illnesses from boarding the vessel and any potential spread of viruses.
Additionally, you may see restrictions on people with pre-existing health conditions, heavier screening for people over a certain age, individuals from high-risk countries.
As with certain airlines, with technology and further research, a potential rapid COVID-19 test may be developed to clear passengers for sailing prior to embarkation.
Dining areas are a big area where the spread of germs and viruses can be magnified. The design of cruise ships will need to change as new vessels are built. For the ones already in operation, extra staff will likely be stationed near what was traditionally a self-serve buffet set up and crew will ensure the safe service of food and beverage.
Protocols and cleaning
If you get sick on board, additional quarantine arrangements, monitoring, and temperature checks aim to help passengers feel confident while sailing. Expect to see enhanced medical areas to support and quarantine sick passengers, and further improvements to air filtration to minimize any potential spread of airborne viruses.
High touch surfaces will be cleaned more frequently, with mandatory hand washing and sanitizing before entering any food service areas.
Itineraries and pricing
A big question is what will itineraries and pricing look like post-coronavirus? There are many variables to be determined still, but analysts predict lower fares due to cruise lines desperately trying to attract passengers and increased supply—especially in upcoming sailings where cancellations have lowered demand.
In the long term, as the economy takes its time to bounce back, we can expect to see shorter and closer cruise itineraries as cruise lines try to manage physical distancing with lower-capacity sailings, increase churn on profit, while offering passengers options who are looking for lower-cost vacations.
Vacations on ships will look quite different for a long time. While you may find some deals in the short term, the health and safety will definitely overshadow the luxury cruise experience as cruise lines aim to reinforce customer confidence.
Economically, with lower demand predicted for longer cruises in favour of shorter itineraries, closer-to-home sailings will help with physical distancing measures and other guidelines set by regulators and government officials.
What do you think? How would you like to see things change to build confidence in booking another cruise? Let us know in the comments below!