Cruise lines are getting back to business in some parts of the world – much to the envy of many die-hard Australian cruisers.
Asia-based Dream Cruises has started short Taiwan sailings from Keelung on island-hopping getaways including Peng Hu, Masu Island, Kinmen as well as Hualien.
Meanwhile in Germany, TUI’s Mein Schiff 2, recently returned from a three-day cruise from Hamburg with just 1,200 guests onboard – 700 less than what the ship can hold at full capacity.
But what is life like on a big ship in the new world of cruise?
Where is the buffet? What are the health and safety protocols like? Are there still theatre shows?
A popular German cruise blogger by the name of Pam was one of the first onboard the Mein Schiff, earlier this month.
She had posted a number of videos and photos on Instagram, including photos from the sail away party, where she broke down in tears.
Pam had waited for months to cruise, so when the Mein Schiff finally departed from Hamburg, it was an emotional moment for the cruise blogger.
Over her three-day trip to Norway, she documented what life was like on a big cruise ship, a rare glimpse of what could be the future of cruise during the COVID crisis.
The Mein Schiff 2 sailed at 60 per cent capacity.
Royal Caribbean, Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line had already indicated that when cruising is to resume, ships would not be sailing with the full number of guests to ensure passengers practice social distancing.
Onboard the Mein Schiff, tables and chairs in the restaurants and public areas have been spaced out.
Speaking of food, rather than ordering from a traditional printed menu, guests are given a QR code to scan on their smartphone.
Now, the buffet, a point of contention as long as cruising has existed, is in fact not dead. Rather than self-servicing, the Mein Schiff has attendants dishing out your food, a practice which P&O Cruises Australia introduced with The Pantry.
Life onboard is a bit slower, but as Pam reports in her blogs, most people were relaxed and were just ecstatic to be sailing again.
Each morning, every passenger must have their temperature checked via a thermal scan. Stations are located around the ship which means that the process does not take long at all.
Much like taking a selfie, the device looks like a smart phone on a stand.
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Staff wear masks at all times, guests are asked to wear them in a situation where they are unable to social distance.
Instagrammer @kreuzfahrtulauber.de wrote, “In the bars, restaurants and other public areas, the chairs and tables have been optimally distanced and in places where this was not possible, certain places have been blocked off by signs. So I’ve never had the feeling that other guests are getting too close somewhere on board.”
They added, “If it is not possible, such as in the [cabin hallways], the guests wear [masks] in a very disciplined manner.”
On the Mein Schiff, only four people are allowed in the lifts at any one time. On the floor, quadrants are marked out and only one person is allowed in each square.
As reported by other passengers onboard, not all staterooms are being used. Guests are only able to book outside cabins, and the Mein Schiff have no passengers staying in interior staterooms.
TUI’s policy also meant that every second balcony stateroom was occupied. Guests sailing on the next voyage would not stay in a cabin used on the prior sailing, allowing for deep cleaning.
Pam did also manage to get in some time for regular cruise ship activities. But like the restaurant areas, all services operated with limited capacity. For example, the gym only allowed 20 people at a time and on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Only 10 children are allowed in the childcare program at any given time, and the various toys and equipment are used every other day, again allowing for thorough cleaning.
And for a little bit of rest and relaxation, Pam also managed to cram in a massage in between her busy schedule.
So while the masseuse wears a mask throughout the treatment, guests can take theirs off while lying face down. But must wear it when lying on their backs.
While it might not be the perfect scenario, Pam and the other guests seemed to enjoy their short jaunt, praising the staff for their efforts.
In Germany, a number of Aida ships will be sailing in August, giving us hope that hopefully in Australia, we might be able to see those big white liners over the horizon.
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Vote in this year’s special Readers’ Choice Awards
No doubt 2020 will go down in cruise history as the year of the pandemic – a once in a generation event. And this year’s Cruise Passenger Readers’ Choice Awards will reflect it.