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Cruise passengers will probably wear masks in 2020

May 12, 2020 Headline News No Comments Email Email

President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Frank Del Rio, has discussed the expansive challenges facing the cruise industry as it rebuilds.

Speaking to Cruise Critic, he said new health and safety measures for cruise ships are being worked on in conjunction with the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He predicted a phased return of the company’s three cruise lines — Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Sea Cruises — in America’s Fall -our September. Mr Del Rio noted that, at least at first, the measures currently governing public health on land, such as wearing masks and social distancing, as well as the emphasis on sanitation and hand washing that already takes place on cruise ships, would have to be part of the sailing experience.

He envisioned “as much testing as possible,” particularly for the crew, on an ongoing basis. The company is also working on more frequent and intense cleaning and disinfecting protocols. An expanded medical center seems likely, with more doctors and nurses on staff, Del Rio said. An isolation area will be included, in the event that anyone does become infected onboard.

Del Rio touted the number of balcony cabins on his fleet of ships, which has a significant number of new builds. More balcony cabins mean better access to fresh air, he said. He also said that the company was looking at rerouting air conditioning ducts and putting in “a much more effective air filtering system.” “Quite frankly, whatever the CDC standards are, we want to do even better,” Del Rio said. “This is not an optical exercise that we want to do the minimum required. We want to do whatever it is that we need to do so that I can look my children in the eye, my mother in the eye, and say it is safe to go on boarding Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings ship. A cruise ship is a controlled environment. If we do this right, I believe cruise ships will be safer than the general population is out in the marketplace.”

The demand for cruising will likely not be as robust when it begins, Del Rio said, so social distancing will be easier to do with fewer people onboard. Norwegian’s ships, with their emphasis on many small specialty restaurants as opposed to large main dining rooms, are well placed to work in a social distancing era; reducing tables to four-tops with more space in between will not be a problem. The ships would also be able to accommodate two shows a night instead of one, so every other seat could be empty, he said.

While over-tourism was a concern before the pandemic in several notable cruise ports, including Venice and Dubrovnik, Del Rio predicted that the majority of ports would welcome back the cruise industry, when the health crisis becomes less acute. “This is a company and an industry that was running a hundred miles an hour. We were doing great. All the ships were full. And it all came to a screeching halt, literally overnight,” he said. “We now have to rebuild momentum; and momentum like it happens everywhere, it starts out slowly.

Edited by Ian McIntosh

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