No more vast buffet meals, sun-tanning shoulder-to-shoulder on the deck or enjoying captain's dinners with hundreds of other passengers. When cruising finally resumes, from the curb to the cabin to shore and back again, sea life will have to undergo some drastic changes.
The cruise industry was hit hard by the global pandemic. According to Associated Press, the cruise industry expected a bumper 2020 season expecting over 32 million passengers globally and hoping to make $71 billion (€62 billion).
The pandemic cut this forecast in half, leaving the industry reeling, and it doesn't expect a quick recovery. Carnival, Royal Caribbean, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which account for 75% of the cruising market, saw shares falling by up to 12% on Wednesday.
Changes to expect with post-COVID cruising
When cruising resumes, the most obvious change will be that ships will have fewer passengers on board, running at only 50 to 70% of their capacity.
Boarding will be a much slower process, with all passengers being tested for COVID-19 before embarkation. Passengers will have to wait for a negative result before being allowed to board, so it is thought that pre-board testing will be implemented.
Travel insurance will undoubtedly be compulsory and as cruise lines look to increase their revenue and avoid passenger repatriation expenses, cruise lines will likely promote, if not require their own travel insurance.
Staggered embarkation and touch-less transactions
Embarkation will have to be staggered and cruise lines will have to figure out ways to prevent excited passengers from arriving early and clustering in groups. All registrations, check-in procedures, and other onboard transactions will have to be automated and touch-less, including touch-less cabin entry.
Onboard, many aspects of the cruising experience will be quite different. Luggage will be disinfected before being delivered to your cabin or stateroom, muster drills will have to take on a new form to prevent people lining up on the deck to learn the emergency procedures, and dining would need to become a served meal with masks rather than the massive buffets that cruises are synonymous with cruising.
Sanitation and disinfection will have to be ramped up to industrial levels — from washing machines and dryers operating at higher temperatures ensure that sheets and napkins are fully sanitised to staterooms and cabins being disinfected every day. Ships will see onboard medical facilities ramped up and more medical professionals hired.
On-board cruising activities and port excursions will change
Extra-curricular activities that cruises offer will undoubtedly change such as galley tours, art auctions, live music concerts, dinner-and-dancing affairs, behind-the-scenes tours, outdoor games, and private bridge tours will be a thing of the past.
Casinos will be open, but with limited seating at tables and crowd control around slot machines and winning tables. Outdoor recreational facilities like sundecks, swimming pools, saunas, whirlpools, and athletic attractions such as zip-lining, and go-karting will be closed or strictly sanitised and limited numbers.
Adjusting to a brave new world of cruising
At this stage, it may sound like going on a cruise is more of a hassle than having fun, but it's not all doom and gloom — cruising as we know it will return one day, but just not anytime soon.
The new age of cruising will depend on how cruise lines handle the "new normal" and the processes they put in place to prevent another outbreak. In the meantime, if you are a lover of cruising the high seas on vast floating cities, pack your mask and sanitiser and be prepared for a very new experience.
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