Seatrade Cruise Virtual, the cruise industry’s premier event, just concluded, and as the name implies, it was held online as the world continues to deal with the COVID pandemic. Over the course of three days, industry experts and cruise executives shared the state of where cruising is today and a look ahead to what guests can expect when cruising restarts on a wide scale.
Each day focused on a different topic: Day one was “Health and Safety”; Day two, the “Guest Experience” and day three, “Tech and Innovation.”
Of course, the overriding question is what the cruise lines are doing to gain both the confidence and trust of passengers and satisfying the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) to get a government green light to resume operations.
In a nutshell, the industry has spent an enormous amount of time, energy and money over the past 12 months to implement health and safety protocols. And while many new measures are in place, there remains a lot of work to do around the process of moving guests from booking their trip to arriving at the terminal to boarding the ship and debarking.
While the United States and Canada remain in lockdown, ships such as MSC are operating in other parts of the world on a limited basis, providing a blueprint on how they are handling health and safety.
One of the key questions is will cruise lines require proof of vaccination. So far, Norwegian and Silversea have stated they will make vaccination a requirement for crew and guests, as has American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines. Royal Caribbean and Celebrity have said crew must be vaccinated, but no word on guests.
Regardless, cruisers can expect frequent testing before and during cruises as part of the new safety protocols.
Technology, which has seen rapid adoption in recent years by all the cruise lines, will shift into an even higher gear to offer enhanced contact tracing, health monitoring and deliver a more personalized guest experience. The goal is to make your cruise as “frictionless” as possible while ensuring a great vacation experience.
Princess noted their state-of-the-art Medallion technology has been expanded to all their ships during the past year. Royal has reinvented the dreaded muster drill, allowing guests to participate from their staterooms. Wearables, facial recognition and contactless payments will play an even larger role.
There are still many issues to tackle, such as if vaccinations are required, what about children who cannot get them? Or dealing with fraudulent vaccination cards?
But overall, there was a lot of optimism the cruise industry would bounce back stronger than ever, safer than ever, and continue to deliver vacation experiences no other form of travel can match.