DESPITE the negative rhetoric that has surrounded the cruise industry during the outbreak of COVID, in a world of post-pandemic travel, a cruise ship with proper protocols and protections in place is at least as secure as a land-based hotel or resort, and in many ways, it is safer.
In contrast to land-based hotels and resorts, there are very controlled exit and entry points on a cruise ship. The service personnel live in the vessel and don’t go home at night. There are controls in place to limit outsiders from entering. Not only that, but most cruise lines who offer excursions ask passengers to sign up for these onshore outings prior to departure, similar to the kind of contact tracing that is becoming commonplace in restaurants and bars. These excursions can also be limited to operators who have approved COVID-safe protocols implemented.
Bruce Nierenberg, former CEO of Coast Cruises, former EVP of Norwegian Cruise Line and founder of multiple other cruise lines has suggested cruise lines should take this opportunity — with more than 90% of ships in the world laid up — to present a bullet-proof health and safety operation protocol that includes the embarkation process, the protection of guests when in ports of call, and the protection of communities the ships visit.
Cruise lines should seriously consider installing modern technology available to them into air conditioner systems, that purifies the air 23,000 times per day. If the right tech is chosen, it can even turn the air into a constant 24/7 destroyer of pathogens and bacteria on the entire vessel for passengers and crew anywhere the air flows to. These devices can be easily and economically installed in any ship HVAC system and can also be used when individual air conditioner units are in each stateroom.
Cruise lines should also apply new high-tech solutions to all surfaces on the vessel, both on inside and outside decks, which actively kill pathogens and virus/bacterial agents and add new solutions to their laundry procedures that are safer than traditional products, make textiles onboard safe to use and continue to kill pathogens during use.
Currently, the industry relies on what could be described as a ‘spray and pray’ procedure, and has done so for years.
The results of the pandemic can’t be reversed, but it would be criminal if the industry didn’t take the opportunity to use this terrible event to make itself safer in a meaningful way, and give it the best product available to minimise any future attacks from the unknown disease world, which can be expected every five to ten years.
Until a vaccine is readily available for everyone, which will have a huge impact on vacation demand, the industry can also temporarily reduce capacity and social distancing onboard, as well as introduce masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment. Safety, health and security are not competitive issues for the marketplace, they are basic requirements of what people expect when they travel.
The cruise industry has been one of the most innovative sectors of tourism over the past 30-plus years. Its innovation in itineraries and activities onboard are amazing. It’s up to the cruise industry to do the right thing. If it does, it can develop and present a solution that will put cruises head and shoulders above the remainder of the resort business.