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My family is a huge fan of cruising. Just a few months ago, I sailed on my 10th cruise (a Very MerryTime cruise on the Disney Dream). My kids love the freedom that comes with a cruise vacation—unlimited soft serve ice cream, kids’ clubs and a plethora of yummy food choices. My husband and I love that we can relax and have some alone time while our kids have a blast. Everyone is happy!
However, the cruising industry has really taken a big hit with the coronavirus pandemic. First, the Diamond Princess had a coronavirus outbreak of over 700 people. The ship was quarantined for weeks while the cases increased. Other ships soon developed on-board cases, and Caribbean ports started denying cruise ships the right to port. Holland America’s Zaandam is still trying to port somewhere with sick people on board, and even cruise ships that are floating with no passengers on board have coronavirus spreading to crew members.
Some die-hard cruising fans are raring to get back on the open water ASAP. However, many experienced cruisers and new cruisers have soured on cruise vacations because of the recent events. Even my family, who loves cruising, is wary about going through with our next scheduled cruise.
Cruise lines won’t recover from this downtrend unless they make some changes to win back customers and assure people that cruise ships aren’t floating petri dishes. Here are some areas that must be addressed.
Eliminate Buffet Risks
As much as people wash their hands, food buffets still present a health risk. You can wash your hands upon entering the buffet, but then everybody touches the same serving utensils. It’s the perfect place for germs to spread.
Cruise ships could reduce the risk by having gloved crew members serve everyone instead of having a self-serve buffet. Or, cruise lines could turn buffets into more of a cafeteria-style set-up where people walk to stations with pre-portioned bowls/plates of food.
Improve Air Filters
Cruise ships should invest in HEPA or UV air filters to help stop the spread of viruses. Scientists from Purdue University studied the issue of air flow on cruise ships and discovered that current air filters are not adequate.
Increase Cleaning/Sanitizing of Public Areas
When the travel industry starts to crawl again, cruise lines need to invest more money in cleaning public areas. While crews clean these areas daily, cleaning them even more often and letting customers know about the increased cleaning frequency will help ease consumer fears.
Invest in Additional Touchless Technology
Cruise ships have many opportunities to replace current technology with new touchless technology. Elevators, soda machines, doors, and bathrooms could all be improved with automatic touchless technology to help reduce the spread of germs.
The Biggest Obstacle
The biggest obstacle cruise ships need to overcome to win guests back is something hard to control: the ability to port in different countries. Nobody wants to go on a cruise expecting to lounge on a tropical island but instead be stuck floating at sea for days/weeks because of sickness on board. Cruise ships will need to have a track record of healthy guests as well as quick and easy health screenings in order to ensure that islands will still let them come to their ports.
Cruise lines have an uphill battle after the coronavirus pandemic. How quickly will travelers feel comfortable cruising again? Will the cruise lines invest money into making changes to control sickness on board? So many questions, so few answers right now.
Has your opinion on cruising changed in the last few months? What do you think cruise lines should focus on to earn business back?
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.