In my blog last week, I began exploring the impact already being felt in the cruise industry as a result of COVID-19 – from falls in share prices to cancellations – as well as the possible light at the end of the tunnel with increased bookings for 2021.
As the early signs of lockdowns being reviewed, eased or lifted begin to show, we are still at the very early stages of returning to what might be termed the ‘next normal’ for the cruise industry. But what might that normal look like? Let’s take a look:
Cleaning between passengers
As with almost every industry, significant new protocols are going to have to be considered in terms of how cruise ships and cruise terminals are kept clean. This is even more important for the cruise industry because, compared to other industries like aviation, cruises by their very nature can last from a few days to several weeks. During this time, cruises become self-sustaining hubs, so if infections take hold, they can become difficult to control and mitigate as reports have shown in recent weeks; and that is despite the efforts of onboard cleaning staff and their daily routines.
All cruise companies have been asked to revisit cleaning protocols and regimes during the turnaround process. But further thought will have to go into passenger handling in terminal buildings, as well as with the use or provision of food and air exchange.
The implications stemming from revised procedures will fundamentally change the way cruise companies operate and run their cruises. It is not entirely clear for example, whether day call-visits will operate in the same way. Star Cruises have stated that their day call coaches might only use half the capacity to allow for social distancing.
One of the clearest implications of expanded and more thorough cleaning/exchange processes – including potential temperature readings for passengers prior to boarding – is that the time spent getting people on board ships will increase. With the industry standard of curb-side to ship-side being 40 minutes (that is, from parking up to actually being on board), I think we can expect this to change.
This in itself will present a challenge for the industry. That speed of process is a big benefit for passengers. And, it is for this reason that cruise terminals are not graced with multiple shops and restaurants like airports. Put simply, passengers are not expected to be waiting for overly long periods of time.
Perhaps there’s an opportunity here, in re-defining the customer experience, but it will not be without some challenges – liaising with stakeholders who would rather passengers spend their money onboard the ship, for example – and will likely come with adjustments to the traditional cruise ship experience.
Health screening and the data question
As mentioned, health screening in the form of temperature tests is something already being discussed quite a lot by various industries. For airports, and with long-haul flights in particular, practices such as having passengers take their temperature prior to flying as well as at the airport are already underway.
It is clear from the cruise companies that they recognise there is little confidence in the current processes and that in order to return the industry to where it was pre-Covid-19, things must change. Cruise passengers aged 70 and older will likely need to have to arrive at the terminal building with a recent health certificate from their doctor. And, along with other cruise passengers and crew, will have to submit to regular temperature checks for the duration of their time at sea.
If pre-departure temperature checks become a reality, it is unlikely to take place in the main terminal building. Rather, these will likely take place in pre-stage buildings or facilities where better control, provision of additional medical information and approval can be undertaken. Finding a location for this ‘new’ facility could lead to major master planning of the cruise terminal infrastructure.
Of course, any handling of a process like this raises questions around the ownership and responsibility for passenger data once collected and how the safety and responsible use of the data can be guaranteed. This is a sticking point for sure, and one that will need careful consideration.
It is fair to say that a lot of these potential new ways of operating will require investment. While terminals and cruise ships have medical and isolation bays, these types of facilities may need to be re-thought or even expanded. At a time of uncertainty where major cruise lines like Carnival – who invest heavily in improvements to ships and terminals – have been impacted significantly, eyes may turn to governments for investment.
The cruise industry brings in billions to economies around the world every year so it isn’t an industry that we can afford to lose. But it is one that will have to change in the years to come.
If you would like to know more about these changes or get further insights into how we may be able to support your business, get in touch today.