In the prior era, the pre-C era, cruise choices were made on criteria of itinerary, sail dates and a very personal cost-to-amenity factor. Forever after – a new criteria enters the choice consideration, and that is: how safe is the ship? Without health safety the ship will not leave the pier with you on it.
Modern cruise ship lines have always been sensitive to guest safety. Beyond the mandatory life-boat drill, every crew member is trained to see that guests enjoy their experience without a slip and fall, or a bad meal. Cough, or complain of a bad tummy, and be whisked away from the crowd, to stifle the feared sick-ship contagion. If you walk the corridors late at night you will see crew washing handrails, pool decks and elevator buttons. No airplane, and few hotels, can match the cleanliness credo of the ship’s master.
Cruise travel received the brunt of bad news in the spring of Covid-19 awakening. Empty ships now sit moored waiting for life to begin again in the popular arena of cruise travel. To gain guest trust, ships are being made even cleaner and safer before. Ships will not sail the world again until that trust is achieved. While you sit home pondering all the places you wish to go, cruise lines are making expensive and meaningful changes for your safety.
Changes will be evident upon check-in. Those little white forms that ask about your health have taken on new meaning. You will be truth-tested with a thermometer. The terminal will be periodically fogged for virus and be as clean as an operating theater.
Bring your favorite masks. Actually, bring several. Imagine a new ship event with a winning mask competition. Gloves are nice when handling luggage. After that, good health is all about washing hands frequently and using hand sanitizers. Hand sanitizing is the low-tech, least time-consuming and most effective means to stem the transmission of virus, in conjunction with wearing a mask.
Expect to make new friends at a distance. Boarding will take a little longer. Your new friends will be screened for their health too. If the ship starts healthy, it will sail happy.
Once on board, look for the certification of a virus-free ship. The new growth industry in cruise ships is in sanitizing ships between sailings. Sanitizing will be continuous in fogging halls and theatres. Your room will have a new hospital-grade filtrations system. In the future, when you hear the fellow next door cough, your room will protect you. Consider tipping you room steward a bit extra. He or she will more than clean your room and give you fluffy towels twice a day. They will give your room an intensive microbial disinfection. Don’t even think of catching a cold. Germs have no chance on your ship.
In the buffet line, do not even think of picking up a serving spoon. Hand your plate to the smiling server and seek your fill in a no-touch environment. Then sit at a table that has been disinfected prior to your use. In the dining room, you may be asked to sign a release to sit at a table for six or more. Just kidding here, although that is a possibility.
Gone are forty people on your shore excursion bus. Gather your five best friends in a van. Social distancing will be the order of every day and night on shore excursions, in the theatre and on all ship activities. Imagine trivia with social distancing. It is a new world.
As a sign of guest social responsibility, and your desire to keeps ships at sea, to allow you to travel the world and be amazed, do your part to wash your hands, wear a mask, and self-isolate if you feel at all ill. Expect to have your temperature taken when leaving the ship to enjoy the shore and again when reboarding. Patience is something to pack in quantity when you next cruise.
While on your cruise do not be surprised with a change of itinerary. Veteran cruise travelers know weather happens beyond the control of the captain. In the future, the captain will be reviewing the health situation at ports of call. Changing itineraries can be a disappointment. Consider the change in the big picture of keeping ships at sea and enabling your ability to travel the world in a safe environment.
If your ship does not offer a health-safety environment, consider a difference cruise line.
Be well, stay well, and come back to sea as soon as it is healthy to do so. The world is still a wonderous place to explore.