What’s next for the cruise industry: Seatrade Cruise Talks

What’s next for the cruise industry? That topic was tackled by a panel of experts on June 25, when Seatrade Cruise Talks presented a webinar on “Steps in Getting the Cruise Industry Up and Running,” moderated by Anne Kalosh, Editor for Seatrade Cruise News.


Excerpts from below:

Q: Where do you see cruising re-starting, apart from domestic river cruises in July, in the U.S.?

Brian: “The CDC No-Sail order applies throughout the United States to any ship that can carry 250 persons (passengers and crew) or more,” so only smaller ships, such as river vessels, are not affected.”

Luis: “Cruising might restart on a limited basis in October, ramping up in the winter season of 2021; you might not be back to 100 percent, but a fairly good capacity.”

Q: There has been discussion of cruises from South Florida ports to the cruise lines’ private islands. That would be a way to control the shore-side experience. Does that sound feasible?

“That would be a very logical step,” said Ajamil. “It’s about controlling the entire journey, from the passenger leaving home and getting on the ship, going to the destination and returning.” Salerno added: “It fits a pattern that we’ll see globally, that when cruising resumes, it’s going to be gradual and phased. Cruises to private islands would fit that pattern.”


It’s noteworthy that June 25 was also the 10th anniversary of International Day of the Seafarer, which pays tribute to the men and women who work on the seas, noting that “Seafarers are on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, playing an essential role in maintaining the flow of vital goods, such as food, medicines and medical supplies. However, the crisis has led to difficult working conditions for seafarers, including uncertainties and difficulties about port access, re-supply, crew changeovers and repatriation.”

Some 600 people worldwide registered to hear the latest on where things stand, including the plight of the seafare workers. The panel included:

Luis Ajamil, President and CEO, Bermello, Ajamil & Partners, a leading port, waterfront planning and design firm, based in Miami with offices worldwide.

Brian Salerno, Senior Vice President, Maritime Policy, Cruise Lines International Association

Jörgen Strandberg, Director, Agile Business Development, Wärtsilä Voyage, committed to making vessel operations more efficient, safe and ecological.

Here are some of the highlights and key takeaways from the hour-long session:

Q: Do you have any indication of the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control) timeline to reopen cruising?

Brian: “In our most recent discussions with the CDC, they were really not interested in reopening talks … so our voluntary extension acknowledges conditions are just not right to resume sailings in the U.S.” He said they’ll continue to work through issues with the CDC so they will be comfortable to allow cruising after Sept. 15.

Salerno went on to say that when cruising does resume, people will see “we have put measures in place that will show” how seriously cruise lines take the well-being of passengers and crew.

Q: So far we have focused on the U.S. What is happening in other parts of the world?

Brian: “Different parts of the world are proceeding at different paces. I would say Europe is much further ahead than the United States.” He pointed out the situation in Australia and New Zealand is similar to that in the U.S.

Ms. Kalosh talked about how river cruising has re-started in Europe, ocean cruises taking place off the coast of Norway, with France and Germany expected to follow suit soon, as well as expedition cruises in Iceland.

Q: Where do you see cruising re-starting, apart from domestic river cruises in July, in the U.S.?

Brian: “The CDC No-Sail order applies throughout the United States to any ship that can carry 250 persons (passengers and crew) or more,” so only smaller ships, such as river vessels, are not affected.”

Luis: “Cruising might restart on a limited basis in October, ramping up in the winter season of 2021; you might not be back to 100 percent, but a fairly good capacity.”

Q: There has been discussion of cruises from South Florida ports to the cruise lines’ private islands. That would be a way to control the shore-side experience. Does that sound feasible?

“That would be a very logical step,” said Ajamil. “It’s about controlling the entire journey, from the passenger leaving home and getting on the ship, going to the destination and returning.” Salerno added: “It fits a pattern that we’ll see globally, that when cruising resumes, it’s going to be gradual and phased. Cruises to private islands would fit that pattern.”

“It’s very important,” said Salerno, “to build confidence among government officials and the cruising public the industry has robust procedures in place to protect their health.

Q: How is the cruise experience going to change going forward?”

Brian: “People will see quite a few differences when they go aboard a ship — social distancing will be a factor which will be apparent in the occupancy levels in restaurants, theaters and gyms; buffets will be managed differently — food may be served by a staff member rather than self-serve.”

He also said technology can play a role, with apps that provide contact-less room entry or systems that offer onboard contact tracing. And while that’s important, he noted a tremendous amount of effort to make sure cruising is still a fun experience.

Q: How will it be different for the crew?

Brian: “We have to protect the health of the crew for obvious reasons, particularly those who interact with passengers.” Among the likely procedures: Temperature checks, health checks, possibly limiting transfers between ships, additional training for health and sanitation.

Q: Which changes will be the most challenging?

Brian: “I think the most challenging will be the coordination with the shore interface, with ports and terminals.” He noted the idea of staggered arrival times and health screenings. “Shore excursions are a particularly difficult nut to crack,” he said. Guests take cruises to go to destinations and see the sights, so “how do we gain assurance that local shore excursion providers are following follow local health authority restrictions?”

Q: What are the port responsibilities during COVID-19?”

Luis: “That’s a really interesting question. In modern times, dealing with health has never been an issue for ports,” noting that it was a primary function in the pre-jet era. “Ports have to come to the realization they have a huge role and it’s not just about cleaning the terminal.” He feels the disembarkation process will be just as important, if not more so, than the embarkation in order to gain the confidence of the cities cruise ships visit.

As passengers leave the ship, Ajamil envisions health screenings along with Customs, and it’s not clear who will have responsibility for those. “If a port takes a leadership position in taking steps that protect the city” where they are located, he thinks that will go a long way toward establishing trust.

What’s less clear, he says, are who’s going to establish the guidelines and how they’ll be administered. “If we wait for someone to tell us what to do, we’ll won’t be sailing until 2025,” said Ajamil. “Everybody’s got to pull their weight and get the program started holistically.” He noted Alaska is one of the few destinations taking a lead in this area.

“Cruise lines have to be better than any other hospitality experience,” said Amamil, “and if you did that, now you have the high ground into to your customers, the CDC, the regulators and the community — your standard is above everything else. That’s what we should be shooting for — it would do wonders for the industry.”

Strandberg talked about a check-in kiosk that doubles as a health screening station. “it would take your temperature and photo, plus your pulse and oxygen saturation. It’s non-intrusive, fast and self-cleaning.” They are also looking into “bio-air sniffers” that check the air for virus particles.

Responding to a question from the audience, Salerno addressed the importance of having protocols in place should a quarantine situation develop. Ideally, “we don’t want ships to be denied entry, and we don’t want them to be quarantined … We have to have confidence in our procedures if someone shows symptoms.”

The problem of repatriating crew members was also mentioned. Salerno said there are multiple issues, including restrictions imposed by the CDC on travel and some home countries barring their return.

Salerno also responded to how media coverage may be misrepresenting the facts. “We (CLIA) are in the process of putting together outreach to send the proper message — that we are a responsible industry. We have a very strong track record of taking care of people and insuring to the extent it’s humanly possible that our guests have the safest and healthiest environment.”

No question that will be critical for cruising to rebound.

View the seminar on demand:
https://event.on24.com/eventRegistration/console/EventConsoleApollo.jsp?&eventid=2426203&sessionid=1&username=&partnerref=&format=fhvideo1&mobile=&flashsupportedmobiledevice=&helpcenter=&key=ED9F0C809AD6647F639116C3DC23641F&newConsole=false&nxChe=true&text_language_id=en&playerwidth=748&playerheight=526&eventuserid=318728756&contenttype=A&mediametricsessionid=274903272&mediametricid=3430586&usercd=318728756&mode=launch

Cover photo: Barbados sweeping island view from St. John’s Church, credit Gerry Barker

 

Editor’s Notes: Seatrade Cruise Global is the largest cruise industry gathering in the world, usually held annually in Miami.

CLIA is Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s largest cruise industry trade association with representation in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australasia.

 

 

 

 

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