THE cruise industry has launched a major global effort to come up with new health protocols that will reassure cruise passengers that it is safe to board ships again.
The industry, which has carried almost 30 million guests annually with very few mishaps, has been battered by COVID-19 crisis, and now needs to come back with even stronger, transparent and rigorous hygiene standards and perhaps better medical facilities aboard its vessels.
Several lines have already published new health regimes aboard their ships, including medical clearance for those over 70, more bacterial cleaning and social distancing in areas of food consumption.
And Princess Cruises, which has had three ships in the spotlight after coronavirus outbreaks, including the Ruby Princessand Diamond Princess, has released a “Cruise with Confidence” package which is just the start of changes aboard its ships.
“We’re working with public health officials, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation, to devise and implement best practices to protect the health of our guests and crew. That means everything from enhanced screening before embarkation to additional sanitisation measures on board our ships,” says the line
Princess says it will “deny boarding to guests and crew if they have been in contact with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 or a person being monitored for COVID-19; are suffering from a fever or flu-like symptoms prior to embarkation; have an underlying, severe, chronic medical condition.”
The new measures include:
Stepping Up Screenings
“At embarkation, we’ll require all guests and crew to participate in mandatory health screenings, which may include a thermal scan to check temperatures, and in some cases secondary screenings. Depending on the results, we will deny certain individuals boarding if we feel they could pose a risk to others.”
Enhancing Sanitation Procedures in Embarkation Terminals
“Enhancing Sanitation Procedures in Embarkation Terminals Beginning in select terminals on March 7, 2020, highly touched surfaces throughout each embarkation terminal will be sanitized continuously, and terminals will be thoroughly sanitised and, where possible, fogged before and after each embarkation and debarkation.”
“In addition to the rigorous daily cleaning regimen we already have, we are establishing additional sanitation measures on all our ships, which include sanitising frequently touched surfaces in all public areas – from tables and chairs to casino chips and fitness machines – even more often than we did before.”
Free-flowing Hand Sanitiser
“We already have hand-washing sinks or hand sanitiser dispensers in front of entrances to all dining venues and the buffet. Crew will monitor entrances to all venues to encourage all guests wash their hands before entering. We are also adding additional hand sanitizer dispensers in high-traffic areas around the ship.”
Keeping Our Crew Healthy
“Each day, we are raising awareness daily of how to maintain a healthy environment on board by reinforcing frequent hand-washing, avoiding hand contact, reporting guests who present signs of illness and more. We will also more actively enforce crew hand-washing and provide more hand sanitisers in crew areas.”
Revising Medical Protocols & Staying Prepared
“Every Princess ship sails with a highly capable medical team that will receive special training for COVID-19. Any guest or crew member who exhibits symptoms of respiratory illness will strongly be encouraged to visit the Medical Centre for a complimentary consultation and, if appropriate, screening for COVID-19.”
24/7 Monitoring and Preparedness
“Our team monitors world health developments from our state-of-the-art Fleet Operations Centre in Santa Clarita, California, and offices around the world 24-7. We are also in close contact with major health agencies, medical experts and partners in the travel industry so we can act quickly to revise plans and protocols as the situation evolves.”
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) says its cruise line members have begun creating a new health framework to uphold the safety of guests and prepare for future operations.
CLIA Managing Director Australasia Joel Katz said: “While cruise operations are suspended, we are using this time to define the new landscape we will work within and make sure we’re ready when the time comes to sail again.
“Many teams of people around the world are working in tandem with experts to ensure we learn as much as possible from these unprecedented events and exceed community expectations in our response.”
He said while it was too early to discuss specific procedures.
“The challenges before us are great and there is no quick fix, which is why we have embarked on a process that will be extremely thorough and will address the concerns that communities and authorities expect to see us confront,” Mr Katz said.