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The EU has issued a document under the title “Interim Advice for restarting cruise ship operations after lifting restrictive measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic”. The date of issue was 30 June. Assuming these advice guidelines are implemented, they will have a large impact on the cruise experience.

The document is in 10 main parts, as follows:

  • Parts 1 & 2 are the Introduction and Purpose of the document;
  • Part 3 covers Essential Pre-requisites;
  • Part 4 options for preventing “COVID-19 infectious passengers” from starting their cruise;
  • Part 5 covers preparedness for responding to COVID-19 events on board cruise ships;
  • Part 6 covers options to prevent COVID-19 travellers (passengers and crew) from boarding cruise ships;
  • Part 7 covers Measures for preventing and limiting transmission of COVID-19 on board cruise ships;
  • Part 8 covers managing COVID-19 on board cruise ships and at terminal stations;
  • Part 9 is about responding to COVID-19 outbreaks retrospectively;
  • Part 10 covers cruise terminals; and
  • 3 annexes.

The document is very long – 48 pages, in fact – and it’s not possible to cover it in any sort of detail here. But (from a very brief perusal) the main measures that are being proposed include the following:

  • significant on-board hygiene action – very frequent and regular deep-cleaning;
  • significant reduction of interaction between crew members and passengers;
  • significant reduction of interaction between passengers;
  • testing/evaluation/screening of arriving passengers (and crew members) at the embarkation port, and refusal to board where appropriate;
  • significant changes to on-board activities that we are familiar with: use of the shops, use of the pools, use of the open decks; use of the restaurants.
  • and many, many more.

To give some details, the following recommendations are made:

Point 7.3 – Limiting interaction. This could be done, it’s suggested, by dividing passengers (and crew) into cohorts; each cohort would then be given specified schedules for eating, disembarkation/embarkation, and participating in on-board activities. Interaction between each cohort should be avoided as much as possible.

Point 7.4 – Physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres should be maintained.

Point 7.7 – Face masks should be worn by crew and passengers at terminals and while indoors on board.

Point 7.11 – Food safety rules. Among a long list of measures that should be taken is this: “…only persons staying in the same cabin .. or household… or same travelling unit.. dine at the same table”.

Point 7.15 – Entertainment venues. It is recommended that physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres be maintained at entertainment venues.

Point 7.20 – Recreational water facilities. There are lots of points here, including a recommendation that showers should be provided before swimmers enter the water, that they should be separated from the pool area, and that the necessary supplies, including soap and/or shower gel, should be provided. So I think the advice is that passengers wanting to use the pool should have a proper shower first, not just a quick splash. As regards sunbeds, the advice is that passengers from different cabins should be separated by at least 1.5 metres.

Obviously I’ve cherry-picked the points above; the full list of recommendations is very long and requires detailed reading. But what’s clear from even a very quick read is that, if implemented, these recommendations would radically change the nature of cruising – indeed, I wouldn’t want to go on a cruise where these measure were in place. My wife and I have often observed that people behave very different when on a cruise – everyone talks to each other, acquaintanceships are quickly made (and quickly loosened, of course), and it’s all very sociable. The recommendations would prevent all that, which for us would take away most of the pleasure of cruising.

So this is not good news for those wanting to cruise any time soon. There’s no indication as to how long the measures, once implemented, would remain in force. My guess is that it would be until the WHO declares the COVID-19 pandemic over; and who knows when that will be?

Here’s a link to the document.

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