Cruise News: Whats The Latest From The Industry
Tuesday November 30 2021, 14:00pm
Cruising has made a joyful, if occasionally bumpy comeback since July, in Europe and beyond. The recent simplification of the governments traffic-light system makes an escape to sea this winter a real possibility too although all eyes are, of course, now on the Omicron Covid variant and the reaction of governments regarding border closures.
Whats left of 2021 certainly looks uncertain in terms of European river cruising. Large swathes of Europe are experiencing a surge in cases and many are in lockdown. Most river cruise lines have cancelled or curtailed their Christmas market cruises.
More optimistically, next summer is shaping up to be a bumper season, with cruise lines aiming for a full return to service and lots of new ships in the mix.
If you cant wait and want to get away this winter, be prepared for last minute changes. Cruise lines have plenty of experience now when it comes to responding quickly to lockdowns and border closures one advantage of operating ships is that you can move them with relatively little notice. Expect a lot of form-filling and what sometimes feels like endless testing but for those determined to enjoy a holiday afloat, this is a small price to pay.
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Cruises And Coronavirus: Is It Safe To Go On A Cruise
Despite warnings from both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department urging travelers to steer clear of cruise ships as COVID-19 spreads, the industry moved forward with planned sailings around the world. But is it safe to be on a cruise ship right now?
Two cruise ships operated by Princess Cruises, the Diamond Princess and the Grand Princess, have been at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak with the Diamond Princess alone, accounting for 696 cases, ahead of countries like Japan. Meanwhile, passengers still quarantined aboard the Grand Princess have reportedly had to fight one another for “rotten food” and other resources.
When Will Ships Return To Us Ports
In the United States, it will probably be a staggered return, said Gray Faust.
Well see only select ships sailing from select ports likely drive-to ports, to start as the industry kicks back into gear. Which ships and ports those will be is still to be determined by the lines themselves.
In addition, protocols will vary by line. Some cruise lines will require adults to be fully vaccinated. Negative COVID tests will be required for kids under age 18.
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Consider Small Deposits For Cruising 2021
As always when booking a cruise, travelers have the flexibility to just pay an initial deposit at the time of booking. Final payment generally isnt due until around three months prior to your sail date.
Alex Ziselman, a travel advisor with A2Z Travel LLC, recommends booking early and considering a refundable deposit.
When you book early you can always reprice if the pricing goes down. But if it goes up, your lower rate is locked in. This would only apply to a refundable deposit rate, says Ziselman, a member of American Society of Travel Advisors .
Cruise Cancellations And Suspensions On
Early in the COVID-19 outbreak, many cruise lines implemented preventative measures meant to keep passengers safe and cases at a minimum.
“Policies currently in place include asking all embarking guests to submit a pre-embarkation public health questionnaire certifying their current health status and recent travel history and administering a non-touch fever temperature check for all guests on board,” Joe Chabus, the director of public relations for Regent Seven Seas Cruises, tells TripSavvy.
Policies also included denying boarding to guests or crew who traveled to or from China, Hong Kong, Macao, South Korea, Iran, and Italy within the past 14 days. Guests and crew members with temperatures at or above 100.4 degrees F, and those who had contact with someone suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19
Beginning in March 2020, cruise lines because cancelling and suspending future sailings. Princess Cruises was one of the first companies to take this step and on May 6, they announced that most of their sailings are canceled for the rest of 2020.
“By taking this bold action of voluntarily pausing the operations of our ships, it is our intention to reassure our loyal guests, team members and global stakeholders of our commitment to the health, safety, and well-being of all who sail with us, as well as those who do business with us, and the countries and communities we visit around the world,” said Jan Swartz, the president of Princess Cruises, in a statement.
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Is It Safe To Travel This Holiday Season
“Right now, we’re saying you can travel, you can continue your normal life to an extent, but keeping in mind all the things you can do to be as safe as possible,” Dr. Acker.
The most important thing to do? Get vaccinated. Experts overwhelmingly agree that vaccination is most effective way to keep kids from contracting any variant of COVID-19. Currently, all adults and children 5 years and older are eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine. And those under 5 have increased protection if the rest of their household receives their vaccines this is called “cocoon care,” Dr. Lighter said.
“Most transmissions happen in the home, they don’t usually happen during travel. If you want to protect your young child, get vaccinated,” Dr. Lighter said, adding vaccines are “extremely safe, they’re extremely effective.”
Experts also pointed to other tried-and-true ways to prevent infection while traveling, like mask wearing and hand hygiene.
The good news: flying is actually considered a relatively safe activity, says Dr. Acker. “Interesting that planes have not been large sources of transmission because of the ventilation systems,” she said. That said, you should watch out for airports “if you’re close to people in crowded lines,” adds Dr. Acker.
Travel Restrictions And Regulations For Cruises
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that all travelersâbut especially those with underlying health issuesâavoid cruise travel worldwide, citing COVID-19’s recent spread in the close quarters that often accompany cruising.
“Recent reports of COVID-19 on cruise ships highlight the risk of infection to cruise ship passengers and crew,â says the CDC. “Like many other viruses, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships.”
A new proposal from Cruise Lines International Association , submitted to the U.S. government, has called for cruise lines to deny boarding to passengers over 70 or those with chronic medical conditions unless they provide a doctor’s note.
On April 4, 2020, the CDC . Crew and passengers from ships arriving to the U.S. will not be able to board a commercial domestic flight after disembarking. Cruise lines will have to organize charter or private flights for crew and passengers. The CDC also recommends that travelers stay home for 14 days once arriving at their final destination.
As stated above, many lines are conducting mandatory health screenings for passengers and denying board to those who have recently traveled to affected regions, in accordance with recommendations from CLIA, the CDC, and the WHO. The screenings include everything in-terminal questionnaires, temperature checks, and other medical evaluations.
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Advice For Cruise Travellers
For many Canadians, a cruise is the perfect way to explore foreign shores. However, like all international travel, cruising calls for careful planning and attention to personal safety.
Careful planning is the key to successful travel and to ensuring your well-being abroad. Before you leave Canada and during your trip, follow these tips.
Stay connected through social media
Cruises Are ‘a Recipe For Transmission’
Even on a good day outside of the pandemic, cruises are challenging environments from an infection-control standpoint, Ostrosky says.
On a cruise, you often spend time in shared common areas. You eat and drink indoors at buffet restaurants with large communal tables, attend shows in theaters and touch all kinds of surfaces, from railings to casino games. If an outbreak happens at sea, you’re restricted to the boat, which can make the outbreak harder to contain and treat.
“It’s just a recipe for transmission,” Ostrosky says. That’s why it’s common to see outbreaks of other contagious respiratory or gastrointestinal viruses, like norovirus, aboard cruises.
Cruises are even particularly risky when compared to other types of travel, like driving or flying, because they present more opportunities for prolonged exposure. “Frankly, the risk on a two-hour flight where everyone is masked and airflow is good is than being on a cruise ship for five days straight,” says Dr. Preeti Malani, chief health officer at the University of Michigan.
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What Are The Covid
Each cruise line has different protocols, but the bulk of the mainstream lines have a very consistent approach to ensuring risk is minimalized.
Norwegian Cruise Line, Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean require full vaccination for all passengers over the age of 12. NCL actually requires everyone be vaccinated.
Some other lines have high vaccine mandates, such as Celebrity Cruises.
Nearly all cruise lines require passengers to get a negative Covid-19 test before boarding, and some do the test right at the cruise terminal on embarkation day. Unvaccinated kids on Royal Caribbean need to get a test before the cruise and on boarding day.
Not all cruise lines have the same policies, so it is important to check with each line and what requirements they have, including if you have to be vaccinated to go on the cruise.
Things To Consider Before Booking A Cruise For 2021
Whether youre booking a trip directly with a cruise line or a travel agent, ask questions and do your research. Travis Blanchard, founder of Splash Bytes recommends the following:
- Research all travel restrictions. Each place and city has its own travel and documentation requirements.
- Know the medical protocols. Some cities wont just accept simple travel authority passes from the place of origin. They also require tourists to undergo COVID-19 tests such as swab tests or rapid tests.
- Bring extra budget.There are tons of hidden charges that this pandemic have caused us, says Blanchard. Some of those fees are for sanitation, infection control and many more. Its wise to bring extra money on your next trip for unexpected expenses.
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What Can Cruise Travelers Do To Protect Themselves And Others
CDC recommends that travelers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to traveling on a cruise ship.
You are considered fully vaccinated:
- 2 weeks after an accepted single-dose vaccine
- 2 weeks after your second dose of an accepted 2-dose series
- 2 weeks after you received the full series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine in a clinical trial
- 2 weeks after you received 2 doses of any mix-and-match combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart±
If you dont meet these requirements, you are NOT fully vaccinated. Keep taking all precautions until you are fully vaccinated.
A person who has received only one dose of an accepted 2-dose series and has recovered from COVID-19 does not meet this definition, and therefore is NOT considered fully vaccinated.
If you have a medical condition that weakens your immune system or are taking medication that weakens your immune system, you might NOT be fully protected even if you are fully vaccinated. Talk to your healthcare provider. Even after vaccination, you may need to continue taking all precautions.
±CDC has not recommended the use of mix-and-match COVID-19 vaccine primary series. However, such strategies are increasingly common in many countries outside of the United States. Therefore, for the of purpose of interpreting vaccination records for travel to the United States, CDC will accept combinations of accepted COVID-19 vaccines.
If you go on a cruise during the COVID-19 pandemic:
Before you board:
Can I Go Ashore On My Own Or Do I Have To Join A Bubble Excursion
Again, there is no consistency with these rules. Cruise lines have their own policies and also abide by the rules of the destinations they visit, all of which are different. Italy and Portugal, for example, currently insist on bubble tours if the cruise ship is sailing over a certain capacity.
Several islands in the Caribbean only allow guests ashore on bubble tours, among them Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines. Others, including St Maarten, Barbados and the British Virgin Islands allow you to go ashore independently.
Unless you choose a line that includes excursions, such as Viking, Saga Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises or Silversea, you could run up considerable expense booking these bubble tours its really important to check before booking, especially for the Caribbean this winter.
Remember that a lot of destinations require you to carry your vaccine certificate and ID around when ashore. In Italy, these double up as the Green Pass, while in France, theyre accepted as your pass sanitaire. If you see signs in Germany saying 2G, this means you wont be allowed in unless you can show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid.
In Europe, certainly, expect these rules to become much stricter, should the new strain of Covid take hold.
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When Are Major Cruise Lines Opening Back Up
Most major cruise lines are attempting to reopen in the open in 2021. No dates are set in stone yet, but many have thrown around July 1st, September 1st, or November 1st as possible dates to restart operations. These dates are dependent both on when governments lift restrictions around cruise travel and when private cruise companies decide to restart business.
cruises that originate in the U.S. are looking at this summer or fall as a likely time to resume operations. Exactly when this occurs will depend heavily on how much of the population is vaccinated before then, and what the CDC decides to do for safety as the economy re-opens.
Onboard Dining And Activities
Will Specialty Restaurants be open? Are their restrictions on restaurant capacity and the number of reservations I can make?All of our Specialty Restaurants will be available.
Can I make reservations for Specialty Restaurants in advance of sailing?Yes, guests may make advance dining reservations online or by calling Regent Reservations.
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Safer Than Main Street
At the start of the pandemic, cruise lines knew they needed to do more than just about anyone to give passengers confidence cruise ships were not only safe, but one of the best options out there.
One of the leaders in this endeavor has been Richard Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, who has talked a lot about his company’s work to make cruise ships safe from Covid.
“We believe we can make it so you are safer on a ship than on Main Street.”
Cruise ships can control our sanitation, including air filtration, and also establish strict protocols. According to Fain, this makes ships safer than shore based alternatives.
“Unlike almost any other place you can think of whether its restaurants, hotels, entertainment venues … we control the environment.”
Relying On A Negative Covid Test Is Also A Flawed Strategy
If you don’t quarantine for two weeks before your pre-boarding Covid test, the test is “basically irrelevant,” Ostrosky says.
To make cruises genuinely safe, he says, companies would need to require mandatory two-week quarantines for each passenger and crew member, negative Covid tests 24 to 48 hours before boarding and another negative Covid test immediately after boarding. That’s an onerous process, and difficult to organize and pull off, especially in the middle of a passenger’s vacation.
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Do I Need To Be Vaccinated To Go On A Cruise
All cruise lines insist on double vaccination and if you want to join a river cruise in Europe, some countries ask for proof of a booster vaccination, too, if youre six months beyond your second jab.
Rules vary between cruise lines and cruise destinations and they are valid up to the end of March 2022 most cruise lines cant commit beyond then to what the vaccine requirements will be next spring and summer as they simply dont know.
If You Must Cruise Here’s How To Be Safer
It could be a while before it’s truly safe to board a cruise. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, recently said that he thinks the country will have control over Covid and regain a sense of normalcy by spring 2022. But even then, travel and cruises will likely be high-risk activities.
“We look forward to a future when more people are vaccinated and the numbers are lower, perhaps we’re over the delta variant,” Ostrosky says. “That’ll be a much safer time to travel.”
If your heart is set on going on a cruise before then, you should get vaccinated when you’re eligible, Malani says. Then, look for cruises that require vaccination proof and only allow reduced capacity the lower, the better. While on the cruise, pick activities and excursions that are lower-risk, she says, like always dining outdoors. And of course, board the ship with the understanding that no matter what happens, you’re taking a risk.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives cruise ships a color-coded safety status green, yellow, orange and red based on reports of cases of Covid or Covid-like illness. The agency also indicates when there are investigations into outbreaks on ships. You can check the CDC’s website for a ship’s Covid status before planning or boarding a cruise.
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