Considered a nonessential travel method that should be avoided during the COVID-19 pandemic, cruise ships have been sitting idle since the middle of March, and there is no definite date in place for when they will be able to sail again.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put a No Sail Order in place on March 14, 2020, for all cruise ships that operate in U.S. waters and carry over 250 passengers and crew. The CDC also put cruise ships under a Level 3 travel health notice because of an increased risk for person-to-person spread of the coronavirus among passengers. The No Sail Order was extended on April 15, and a second extension was announced on July 16, 2020. The order will remain in effect until one of the following events occur:
- The CDC rescinds or modifies the order, or
- COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency, as declared by the Secretary of Health and Human, or
- September 30, 2020
How Cruise Lines Are Handling the Crisis
On March 13, 2020, the cruise line industry’s largest trade association, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), announced a voluntary 30-day suspension of operations for all of its member cruise lines. The suspension was prolonged until July 24 and then again to September 15. Although the cruise industry is currently experiencing substantial financial losses, it is looking ahead with optimism. The CLIA website states, “Despite current challenges, the cruise community will emerge from this global crisis stronger and even better than before.”
Popular cruise lines like Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean have posted special messages on their websites to address questions from travelers. The statements strive to rebuild trust by explaining that the organization’s first priority is safety, and it is working to implement whatever changes are necessary to meet the new demands.
Many cruise lovers live in the U.S., so cruise lines have devoted customers who will want to come back at their first opportunity. Policies for cancellation and postponement of reservations have been relaxed, and deep discounts are being offered to encourage people to plan ahead for returning to sea. However, passenger numbers may struggle to be restored to pre-pandemic levels. The cruise business profits by putting as many travelers as possible on one ship. Passengers interact in group activities, sit elbow-to-elbow in theatres, and eat meals or sunbathe within arms-reach of each other. The social atmosphere is the perfect place for viruses to circulate. Cruise ship companies are having to re-think their typical business model in order to promote their service and make customers feel safe.
New Protocols When Cruise Ships Sail Again
When cruising is once more a travel option, restarting operations will most likely happen in a gradual manner, as the virus will be at different stages in different areas. Health and safety will have to be made a priority to preserve the future of the industry. Planning is now in the works for new protocols to be in place when sailing resumes to protect passengers and crew from illness outbreaks onboard. New procedures under consideration include:
Since maintaining social distancing throughout the ship can go far in preventing the spread of disease, the number of passengers allowed on cruises will be reduced. With less capacity, the inside cabins could go unoccupied, and instead, rooms with windows or balconies could be filled up to allow passengers access to fresh air.
Boarding procedures and health screenings
Touch-free temperature scans will be required before boarding. Ship personnel may also decide to deny boarding to anyone with symptoms of illness. Crew procedures for embarkation will be touchless, and boarding times will be staggered to avoid close contact in lines as passengers take turns going through the boarding process.
Hand sanitizing stations will be located throughout ships, and in-depth disinfecting of all public areas repeated regularly. Certain sections of the ship may be closed periodically to allow for deep cleaning.
Cleaning supplies (disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer) and protective gear (masks and gloves) could be added amenities for each cabin. Extra bedding that can’t be washed easily, such as throw pillows and bedspreads, could be omitted. Disposable covers for high-touch items, such as television remote controls, is another possible hygiene precaution.
Requiring hand sanitizer use upon entering onboard restaurants is a measure that some cruise lines already had in place, but the crowd-pleasing self-service buffets may disappear altogether. Passengers may be assigned to tables in dining rooms and seated only with their traveling companions. Crowding could be reduced by spreading diners out with more venue options available, especially outdoors, or instituting multiple seating times. Room service could be encouraged by expanding the menu choices and hours of availability.
Future Considerations for Cruise Operators
Although relaxing some of the new protocols eventually will probably make sense, the stricter sanitation procedures should remain in place. With the cruise industry’s history of onboard virus outbreaks, such as norovirus, the augmented attention to cleanliness should be a welcome and permanent addition to its operations.
Competition has always been intense among cruise lines, and it will probably only increase while some travelers still rule out cruising as a vacation option. Sanitation policies will be added to the amenities that customers compare between ships, so companies should be racing to outdo each other in the area of onboard health.
Louis A. Vucci P.A. Is Here for You
Has your life been impacted by the detrimental event of contracting COVID-19 as a guest or crew member on a cruise? You may have a personal injury claim that Louis A. Vucci P.A. can help you with. Our skilled medical negligence attorneys can determine if your illness was caused by the cruise line’s failure to act responsibly, and you could be entitled to financial compensation. To find out how you may be able to pursue legal action after your COVID-19 diagnosis, just call us at (786) 375-0344 or fill out this contact form. Let’s get started today.