Friday, 3 Jul 2020

Cruise: European cruise line returns to sailing with major changes in place

Cruises have been on pause, along with most travel, for the last few months as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic sent the world into unprecedented lockdown. As restrictions ease across the globe, one European cruise firm has returned to the waters, but things aren’t the same onboard.

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German-based nicko Cruises returned to sailing last week, with new social distancing measures in place.

The river cruise set sail on the Rhine with 40 passengers onboard.

Though the ship usually has a capacity of 220, the reduced figures were part of the cruise’s new social distancing measures.

The ship also trialled new spaced-out dining, face shields for staff and arrows on the floor dictating a one-way system.

Moving forward, the ship will welcome approximately 80 percent of its normal capacity onboard.

According to the cruise company, onboard “hygienic standards have been tightened”, and mealtimes will be split into two separate sittings to reduce the number of people in the dining room at any one time.

Buffets are also a thing of the past, with crew serving breakfast from the buffet to guests.

Passengers will be required to wear masks when in corridors and gangways, and sadly the spa, including pool and gym facilities, will remain closed.

Nicko Cruises is also asking all passengers to fill out a health questionnaire which they must bring onboard.

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In a press release, the cruise line stated: “Only passengers who have passed the health questionnaire with no objectionable results will be admitted onboard the ship.”

Though the experience may sound like a far cry from the cruises we knew prior to the pandemic, the cruise firm has successfully become one of the first to return to sailing and says passenger wellbeing is a top priority.

Guido Laukamp, the managing director of nicko cruises said: “The satisfaction and wellbeing of our guests is very important to us.

“We are counting on the fact that the measures that have been taken are having an effect and that from June onwards we will gradually be able to get our ships going again.”

Though the Rhine cruise has gone ahead, nicko cruises continue to run a reduced schedule, with planned journeys on the Danube, along with Croatia, Portugal, France, Russia and Asia cancelled until June 14 at the earliest.

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While many cruise firms remain uncertain about the future, these hygiene measures could be the future of holidays on the high seas.

Similarly, American Cruise Lines has announced plans to reduce passenger capacity when it makes its return to river sailing on Jun 20.

For its Columbia and Snake rivers sailings, the line will reduce guest capacity to 75 percent.

Likewise, P&O Cruises have suggested that passengers in the future will have to pass “rigorous” medical checks in order to embark on their holidays.

The UK cruise line told PA news agency that it is coming up with new “Stringent measures” to ensure it is in line with international health guidelines once it restarts operations.

Passengers will have to go through an onboard health screening before they board the ship.

Other changes being considered include reducing the onboard capacity, removing self-service buffets and implementing one-way systems for guests and crew.

P&O Cruises is due to return to sailing in October.

P&O Cruises president Paul Ludlow said he remains hopeful the new safety methods will work with Public Health England guidance “without compromising enjoyment and experience” for passengers.

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