You might be on a cruise in the Caribbean before the holidays.
Cruising in the Americas – that’s the cruise region for the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America - could begin again in about a month’s time, if significant industry developments this week bear fruit.
Testing the Waters in Europe
Any regular reader of our newsletters will know we’ve been following the slow progress of cruising’s return.
In the Spring in response to the pandemic, Europe-based cruise lines repatriated their ships to home waters. Then, after COVID peaked there in the summer, they successfully began ‘bubble’ cruises for their own citizens in very controlled circumstances which provided real-life case studies.
European cruise lines like MSC Cruises, Ponant, Seadream and others have now been sailing safely in Europe for weeks.
Europe’s cruise lines have not only proven it’s possible, their return-to-cruising experiences have paved the way for the largest cruise market in the world to see a restart of cruising too.
2 Moves Closer to Cruising at Home
This week, two things happened on this side of the Atlantic.
1. Members of the cruise industry association representing 95% of ocean cruises unanimously agreed to adopt a set of mandatory protocols for safe sailing. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) members include European cruise lines, whose successful experiences this summer – shared throughout the industry – helped inform a new set of rules all members have now adopted.
CLIA’s protocols also included the findings of an unprecedented collaboration between two of cruising’s giants. Royal Caribbean Group (parent to Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara and Silversea) and Norwegian Cruise Holdings (parent to Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas Cruises) convened a joint ‘Healthy Sail Panel’ of medical and scientific experts. The panel has spent months determining a list of 74 best practices to protect the health and safety of ship guests, crew, and the communities where cruise ships call in port.
2. This week, the Healthy Sail Panel submitted those findings to the U.S. CDC in response to its request for input as it considers whether to lift its ‘No Sail Order’ currently in place for all U.S. ports.
With such strong submissions and the precedent of safe sailing in Europe, it’s widely hoped and expected the CDC will lift its No Sail Order, clearing a path for US-based cruise lines to resume operations after the end of October.
A Travel Industry First: 100% Testing
The core elements adopted by all CLIA members encompass your entire cruise experience from booking to debarkation following your cruise, and include:
- Testing: 100% testing of passengers and crew for COVID-19 prior to embarkation.
- Distancing: Physical distancing in terminals, onboard ships, on private islands and during shore excursions.
- Masks: All passengers and all crew must wear masks when physical distancing isn’t possible.
- Ventilation: New strategies to increase fresh air onboard and implement enhanced filters and other technologies to reduce airborne virus spread.
- Shore Excursions: Passengers will have to follow prescribed protocols, and re-boarding will be denied for any passengers that do not follow the rules.
- Medical Capability: Every ship will allocate stateroom capacity to allow for isolation if people do get sick, and will have advance plans in place for shoreside quarantine, medical assistance and safe transportation.
“A pathway for the return of limited sailings from the U.S. before the end of this year.”
That’s what CLIA says these new agreed-upon protocols mean. The organization also notes that initially, following CDC approval of the new safety measures, cruises would sail on modified itineraries.
Regional cruise destinations will have to be on board too, and the new protocols are getting positive feedback from officials in your favorite cruise ports.
The Prime Minister of Barbados co-chairs the Americas Cruise Tourism Task Force and said: “The cruise lines’ commitment to conduct 100% testing for all passengers and crew is significant and unique as compared to any other sector. Having this core element in place adds a layer of confidence for us so we may safely welcome cruising back.”
By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/Host and Cruise Expert, BestTrip TV
Top Image: Oceania
Other images courtesy CLIA
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