Cruise lines are developing policies and procedures in place in keeping with WHO and CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of COVID-19. But, what will cruise social distancing look like on Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Cunard, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, MSC, Regent to name a few ? By its very nature cruising is a social experience with multiple opportunities to meet and spend time with others.
I cruise a total of two months every year, and have for the past 16 years. I can appreciate the challenges that the cruise ships are facing in modifying their ships and services to be in compliance. What follows are my thoughts on what areas and activities on shipboard need changing.
Cruise Social Distancing Begins At Embarkation
Boarding a cruise ship often means standing on line, close to other guests, while waiting to board. Maintaining social distancing will require different processing procedures. Once on board, accessing elevators is the next social distancing challenge. The larger the ship, the more the chance of crowds forming in the elevator waiting areas and packing into the elevators. Boarding times may need to be staggered. Waiting areas, with seating that allows for alternate seating and/ or row use, is a possible solution.
Guest are often directed to the buffet dining area for lunch straight from embarkation. Buffet areas are the next social distancing hurdle. Guests line up at the various food stations. Tables and chairs in the dining areas are close together. Guests are often dining less than 6 feet from one another, and some guests are sharing tables with people they don’t know. It may be necessary to eliminate buffet service and convert it to a served meals dining room to achieve social distancing.
Before a cruise ship sails there is a mandatory safety drill for all passengers. Some ships hold these drills on the outside deck where the muster stations are located. Other ships hold the safety drill in the ship’s theater, restaurant, or a large lounge area. In each instance guests are close to each other. Outside drills. where guests stand shoulder to shoulder need to be eliminated. Theater staged drills can practice social distancing by alternate row and seating arrangements. It may be necessary to have two or more safety drills to accommodate all passengers using social distancing in the theater and lounge areas. Another option might be that guests watch the drill in their cabins and crew members check each cabin.
Social Distancing on the Pool and Sun Deck
One of the most popular decks on most cruises is the pool/sun deck. While the sun bathing area lends itself to a rearrangement of deck chairs to achieve social distancing, pool access is a challenge. A staggered schedule of pool access is a possibility, but not one the will be popular. Lines for ordering food and alcoholic beverages will need to follow the 6 ft. guidelines for social distancing.
Dining Area Distancing
Most dining rooms I have experienced have a social distancing between tables. However, table seating may need to be altered with more tables for two and fewer table for 8-10 guests. And, tea, coffee and other refreshment areas will need to follow distancing guidelines by adding space to the lines waiting for service.
Social Distancing in Lounges, Bars, Casinos, Performance Areas and Boutiques
Alternate seating in alternate rows in the lounges and the theater are one solution for social distancing. But, it has been my experience that the customary two theater performances, per night, play to a full house. Also, many of the evening lounge performances are also well attended . Possible solutions may be to add a third performance for the theater as well as the lounge entertainment in the day time.
Bars that have bar seating will not lend themselves easily to every other seat empty for social distancing. Small tables, with table service may be an acceptable alternate.
Casinos may require some alterations including separation between slot machines and space around gambling tables to name a few.
Boutiques and other onboard shopping can limit the numbers of guests in the shops and sales areas at any one time.
When Cruises Begin Again
I am looking forward to cruising again. While it may look different, it will still be a resort at sea!
Thanks for visiting
All the best,