Cruise lines with high-density vessels are likely to take months, if not years, to return to their capacity heyday when new health and safety protocols come into effect, caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The likely ship passenger capacity reductions were mentioned by Adam Goldstein, Global Chair of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), while addressing media in Australia and New Zealand on a conference call from the US yesterday [22 July 2020].
Goldstein said that an “incredible effort” was going on behind the scenes to kickstart global cruising, saying the coronavirus has lead to a “brutal environment” for travel advisors.
He said CLIA was active in its engagement with local authorities in Australia, including the Federal Department of Health, the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, the Department of Infrastructure, Ministry of Trade and Tourism and the Australian Border Force. Similarly in New Zealand, CLIA is maintaining a dialogue with the Ministry of Health, New Zealand Customs and the Ministry of Tourism, with the vision to have some form of the cruise season in the region for this coming summer.
“The priority at all times is the health and welfare of the guests and of the crew. We simply must adopt a public health profile that is appropriate to the challenges that the pandemic presents to us in your part of the world, in all parts of the world, and that’s what we will endeavour to do.”
“The focus is to get it right,” he said.
Goldstein outlined four pillars CLIA members are working on in order to resume sailings. They include screening processes; onboard operation during a cruise; ways ships will visit destinations and how ships will respond if COVID reappears.
He said most CLIA members have indicated that in order to reboot cruise operations they recognise the necessity to “start with lower occupancies” as part of the ‘onboard operation’ pillar and achieving physical distancing requirements. Cruise lines will also need to reduce dining room capacity, limit guest numbers in theatres and in public spaces and on decks. Off the ship, physical distancing will be necessary at cruise terminals, ports and during shore excursions.
“What we guess we will see, and not only in Australia and New Zealand but in all parts of the world, is some type of phased-in sequential resumption.”
Without specifying the name, Goldstein used an example of a member cruise company in Germany that is about to recommence operation following these principles. That company is Hapag-Lloyd Cruises, which has been working in partnership with CLIA Deutschland and “taking guidance from the EU and the form of the healthy gateways suggested protocols”.
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises is relaunching two ships from next Friday 31 July, both operating round trip from Hamburg and not making any port calls. EUROPA 2 and HANSEATIC inspiration will carry only citizens from Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Capacity on these ships has been slashed by 40%. (Learn more here).
As conditions begin to improve it is expected ship capacity restrictions will be gradually eased.
“Obviously that’s a huge difference to what cruising was just six months ago but it’s also a huge difference from what cruising has been lately, which has been no cruising at all,” Goldstein said.
“When it comes to Australia and New Zealand, of course, we’ll respect the interests, wishes and requirements of the authorities, but certainly we think that some sort of sequential restart of that sort should be viable, should be in the dialogue, given the geographies of coastlines and available, reachable cities, town and communities along the New Zealand coast,” the CLIA boss remarked.
Goldstein also said CLIA was hopeful cruising would be included in the proposed travel corridor/bubble between Australia and New Zealand.
“Australia is a fairly straightforward situation. The country needs to decide what type of cruising it wants and when. And when that decision is made we need to execute according to that mandate in a responsible and consistent way,” he added.
Over the next few weeks, CLIA aims to create a compendium of protocols and policies across safety, environment, public health, medical, security and more, derived from the numerous experts and specialists that cruise lines have partnered with that pertain to the pandemic.
Despite the doom and gloom of the past four months, Goldstein asked that travel advisors “continue to promote the benefits of cruising and the health and safety protocols that will be coming out”.
It should also be noted that a number of cruise lines have already begun operation in their local markets, including Hurtigruten in Norway and Ponant in France.