Enjoying the Northern Lights with Hurtigruten.

In this new sailing landscape, cruise lines are keeping safety top of mind, with new protocols that affect the entire sailing experience, but will instill confidence in your clients when cruising is back 100 percent. 

Hurtigruten
Huritgruten is back in service, with four ships currently at sea. Additionally, for 2021, the cruise line will operate expedition cruises to the Norwegian coast year-round with departures from Hamburg, Dover and from Bergen. On these, says John Downey, president for the Americas, Hurtigruten, “guests will be able to enjoy small-boat cruising, kayaking, close-up on the Norwegian Coast, and hand-crafted itineraries to ensure that all activities and destinations are as safe as possible. 

“Hurtigruten has added new functions such as health and safety officers, more health professionals, etc. This means that the crew-to-guest ratio is significantly increased, ensuring an even better onboard experience than before.” — John Downey, President, Americas, Hurtigruten

“As restrictions lift,” he adds, “Hurtigruten will be able to offer landings, hikes, city walks, and more. Excursion pricing will remain the same. Hurtigruten will soon be announcing new expedition routes and experiences to discover the beauty of Norway in 2021 and beyond.”

For the duration of summer 2020, Hurtigruten will not sail with more than 50 percent capacity, with social distancing mandatory. Additionally, all passengers will often be asked to wash or disinfect hands, including at embarkation and disembarkation, outside all restaurants and on entering public areas. Guests must also fill out healthcare forms and have their temperature taken before boarding and even during sailing. Employees will be submitted to this as well. And, of course, all key public areas will be sanitized every night. 

“While the number of guests are significantly reduced, the number of crew will be increased,” says Downey, “Hurtigruten has added new functions such as health and safety officers, more health professionals, etc. This means that the crew-to-guest ratio is significantly increased, ensuring an even better onboard experience than before. The entire ship is fully sanitized before each boarding.”

Hurtigruten will no longer be serving buffet meals, but guests can use their phones to scan QR codes to access the menu to order and be served at the table. It’s all in the details: “From little details like providing single use salt, pepper, sauces, and sugar that have been previously sanitized, to bigger details like enforcing guests to clean their hands (before and after entering the restaurant) and more space around each table.

“Hurtigruten,” he says, “still doesn’t know the full impact of the pandemic, but as the situation continues to develop and progress, the team will evolve to best serve guests safely.” 

Sundeck area on board American Cruise Lines ship.

American Cruise Lines
“We know that social distancing works. And even though our ships are already designed to offer enormous space per passenger, we are also voluntarily cruising at 75 percent capacity to allow for even more space on board,” says Susan Shultz-Gelino, v.p. of trade relations for American Cruise Lines (ACL), whose ships began plying the Columbia & Snake rivers in late June. 

“All our small ships are designed with numerous fresh air outdoor lounges and sundecks, plus private balconies, so there is plenty of room for natural comfort and new social distancing protocols.”

ACL’s ships range from 100-180 passengers, with approximately 350 sq. ft. of passenger space per guest at full capacity. Additionally, points out Shultz-Gelino, “our initial cruises back on U.S. waters will offer even more space, approximately 450 sq. ft. per guest, achieved through our voluntary capacity reduction measures.” 

“All our small ships are designed with numerous fresh air outdoor lounges and sundecks, plus private balconies,
so there is plenty of room for natural comfort and new social distancing protocols.”
Susan Shultz-Gelino, Vice President,  Trade Relations, American Cruise Lines

In addition to the ships being ideal for social distancing, the cruise line has implemented a touch-less boarding and check-in process. Medical screenings may require some contact between a medical professional and the guest, but proper PPE will be supplied and utilized appropriately. All cruises will also have resident nurses and EMTs on board new sailings. Shultz-Gelino tells travel advisors to let clients know that “American’s ships are designed with independent HVAC systems in every stateroom and lounge, with no shared ducting; and the ships also have UV-C water filtration systems for all potable water. These filtration systems kill a wide range of bacteria and viruses.

 “We already offer so many inherent benefits on our all domestic itineraries and newly built small ships,” says Shultz-Gelino. “So, the additional protocols for sailing in the ‘new normal,’ offer additional comforts and safety benefits, but we already offer an intimate cruising style, with small group excursions, private transportation, etc. The ‘new normal’ is no problem for American.”

PONANT’s Le Boreal in Antarctica.

PONANT
“Our guests’ safety and comfort has always been at the center of our service and care,” says Navin Sawhney, CEO, Americas, PONANT. “It’s our number one priority while continuing to offer the signature PONANT expedition experience.” 

With that in mind, guests sailing with PONANT—which, as of press time, had not announced new sailing dates—will be required to wear face masks when moving throughout the ship; they’ll be provided with surgical and cloth masks, as well as disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer bottles. Additionally, prior to boarding, all guests and crew members will have to present a signed doctor’s medical form, complete a health questionnaire and undergo a health check and screening by the ship’s medical staff; all luggage will pass through a disinfecting zone by sanitizing mist or UV lamps; Zodiacs will be thoroughly disinfected after each stopover; and re-boarding after shore excursions will only be permitted after temperature check and disinfection procedures (individuals and personal belongings).

“Our guests’ safety and comfort has always been at the center of our service and care. It’s our number one priority while continuing to offer the signature PONANT expedition experience.” — Navin Sawhney, CEO, Americas, PONANT

The new normal on board PONANT also means redesigned restaurant layouts; only contactless a la carte dining options; 50 percent cap in public spaces, such as the fitness room and theater; hourly disinfecting of high-touch-points, such as door handles and handrails, with Ecolab peroxide; and all ships will have five vacant staterooms should guests need to isolate. 

“We have also implemented 100 percent fresh air ventilation in all staterooms, through non-recirculating air conditioning systems, while ventilated air in the common area will be renewed at least five times per hour,” says Sawhney. He adds, “to complement our existing hygiene and sanitary measures, we reexamined every single aspect of both the guest and staff experience in collaboration with the Institut Hospitalo-Universitaire (IHU) Mediterranee Infection of Marseilles, one of the world’s leading centers in the field of infectious diseases, and the Battalion of Marine Firemen of Marseilles, which has a special unit dedicated to NRBC (nuclear, radiological, bacteriological and chemical), to ensure the highest measures of protection. Every vessel in the fleet is now equipped with an onboard hospital with mobile laboratory terminals and advanced diagnostic equipment including ultrasound, radiology and blood biological analysis, as well as an automated temperature check station.” 

Sawhney notes that the small size of PONANT’s ships, with an average of just 170 passengers, has allowed the cruise line to implement the protocols quickly and efficiently. He adds, though, that “beyond our comprehensive new protocols, sailing with PONANT will continue to focus on curated itineraries and private excursions in far-flung destinations while abiding by regional and country guidelines. We have always focused on increasing awareness and interaction with local communities, and will continue to do so while ensuring the safety of not only guests but also of these indigenous populations. For example, land excursions will only take place in regions where the epidemic is under control or in uninhibited areas,” pointing out that, “Zodiac excursions will continue to offer up-close encounters with the wildlife and sights, but we have reduced the number of passengers able to board each Zodiac to ensure proper distancing.”

Royal Caribbean
The cruise group’s health and safety program, Healthy Return to Service, will have four main focuses: upgraded screening prior to boarding; enhanced processes and procedures on board; special focus on addressing the destination the ships visit; and procedures for dealing with any reports of exceptions. “We recognize that this is extremely complex,” says Richard Fain, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.’s chairman and CEO, “and we have assembled a blue-ribbon team of experts in the fields of epidemiology, virology, infectious diseases, logistics and more to advise us on the right approach. Our goal is to raise our standards to entirely new levels. And we believe that the Healthy Return to Service program will help us get there.”

Our goal is to raise our standards to entirely new levels. And we believe that the Healthy Return to Service program will help us
get there.” — Richard Fain, Chairman & CEO, Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. 

Fain goes on to note that, “It is tempting to start talking about all the individual components of how things will change. However, we’re still defining all those enhancements, and we’re still taking guidance from our expert advisors and government authorities. And this process will continue in keeping with our mantra of continuous improvement. We have the time; we have the determination and we have the expertise.” 

Paddleboarding while sailing with Paul Gauguin Cruises.

Paul Gauguin Cruises
On July 29, 2020, French Polynesia will re-open to international tourism, and Paul Gauguin Cruises will welcome both local and international guests on its 10-night Society Islands & Tuamotus voyage departing July 29, 2020, from Papeete, Tahiti. In addition to sailing the islands of Huahine, Bora Bora, Motu Mahana, and Moorea, this itinerary also features calls at the atolls of Rangiroa and Fakarava in the Tuamotu Archipelago, which are known for their stunning lagoons that teem with marine life. In August 2020 and beyond, Paul Gauguin Cruises will resume its previously scheduled 7- to 14-night Tahiti, French Polynesia, and South Pacific sailings.

As with its parent company, PONANT, guests sailing with Paul Gauguin will have to present a signed doctor’s medical form, complete a health questionnaire, and undergo a health check and screening by the ship’s medical staff. Face masks are mandatory; public spaces, such as the fitness room and theater will be capped at 50 percent occupancy; and restaurants will offer contactless a la carte dining options.

“We are committed to a safe and secure vacation, guaranteeing guests’ peace of mind when sailing aboard m/s Paul Gauguin with enhanced protocols.” — Sandy Stevens, Vice President, Sales &
Guest Relations, Paul Gauguin Cruises

“We are committed to a safe and secure vacation, guaranteeing guests’ peace of mind when sailing aboard m/s Paul Gauguin with enhanced protocols that provide maximum protection for guests and crew,” says Sandy Stevens, v.p. of sales and guest relations for Paul Gauguin Cruises.

Paul Gauguin will follow the same protocols as its parent company PONANT, and let clients know that the ship is equipped with advanced hospital equipment, including mobile laboratory terminals that enable testing on site for infectious or tropical diseases. Advanced diagnostic equipment such as ultrasound, radiology and blood biological analysis are available, and one doctor and one nurse are present on every sailing. 

“Every aspect of protection and prevention,” says Stevens, “has been considered and incorporated into our COVID-Safe Protocol.

Health & Safety Protocols Information
American Cruise Lines:  americancruiselines.com/about-us/covid-19-operating-protocol
Hurtigruten: hurtigruten.com/practical-information/coronavirus-update
Paul Gauguin Cruises: pgcruises.com/travel-advisory
Ponant: us.ponant.com/our-commitment-to-health
Royal Caribbean International: royalcaribbean.com/cruise-ships/itinerary-updates