Wanderful hosted a free public event to discuss the future of cruising. Missed it? Catch the recording and the highlights right here.
Cruise Enthusiast! Want to know what 2021 has in store for your cruise vacations?
Every year my family and I take a cruise together to start the summer off right. But this year, it wasn’t possible with cruise lines not being able to sail in the summer.
So that got me thinking about what the cruise industry will be like next year.
With the help of Wanderful, Celebrity Cruises, and Celestyal Cruises, we can all glimpse that possible future.
In a panel discussion held in September 2020, we could go through the questions that have been on everyone’s mind since March.
If you missed it, or just wanted a rundown on the key points, here’s my review on the future of cruising panel.
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Adjusting to Fit the CDC Regulations
CDC Regulations and Healthy Protocols
With all the cruise lines being viewed as one, it has created a sense of being in it together for the cruise industry.
Ron Gulaskey, an Associate Vice President at Celebrity Cruises, said it best.
“CLIA is trying to grab all of us cruise lines together so that we’re all doing the right thing for not only the consumers but travel advisors and partners as well,” he said.
This is especially important for meeting the CDC regulations for being able to sail again.
Every cruise line has submitted its Healthy to Return Protocols with the CDC. The latest submission for some was September 15th.
These Healthy to Return Protocols can cover anything from how ships will be boarded and disembarked, to what should happen when someone tests positive for COVID-19, to even what to do in case of an outbreak on land or onboard.
An example of these regulations, the first four months of 2021 includes ships being at a 50-60% capacity, depending on the class of ship.
Celebrity Rating System
There are cruise lines that have come up with a rating system for how these policies will affect the experience onboard for the guest and the crew members.
Celebrity has created a rating system that’s based on the colors green, yellow, and red. Red policies are ones that have to be changed no matter what. While green policies are the best for guests and crew experience.
Yellow means they intend to rethink and figure out how they can turn it into a green rating.
Everything that is guest-facing is the same for the crew. From how they eat to cleaning their rooms, it’s all about the health, safety, and cleanliness of the crew.
They view the guests and crew as the most important part of the cruise line.
They will review the policies through the rating system prior to boarding the ship. So it won’t have a visual representation, but will show in the final policies.
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A Lot of Staggering
With everything that the policies cover, one thing is for sure: There will be staggering.
Arrival for Cruising
There is a possibility of staggered arrivals for guests. This will allow for there to be fewer people at the pier at once.
Even with the staggering arrivals, they’ll try to leave by 6-7 pm on the same day the ship arrives back in port. That even lets guests enjoy a sunset dinner.
The Dining Experience
The dining room may even see staggering with time slots and how tables are set up.
They may only allow seating at every other table, or might even \spread people out even more.
This is part of how they’re going to judge their capacity for the ships.
Seats for the Show
The theater is another location onboard where you’ll see staggering. From how many shows there’ll be to how the seating arrangement will be, shows will be different.
There will therefore be more shows and activities added. Guests may have to register for the events that they would like to go to.
Registering will make sure everyone can see everything that they would normally see on a cruise ship without the feeling of sitting on top of anyone.
The seating will either be every other seat or staggered rows. It could even be a combination of the two.
There’s even a seating plan for families and pods that still allows them to be able to sit together during a show or dinner while still keeping distances from others.
Testing, Masks, and a Bubble
Some of the biggest concerns that have come up are how testing will be done and will guests have to wear masks while on board.
Testing for COVID-19
Most cruise lines are expecting to do rapid testing upon arrival, which will give you a result in 15 minutes.
They prefer this form of testing because anything can happen between the airport, the taxi, and arriving at the pier. Testing at the time of boarding, rather than days before, could be more effective.
Additionally, this system should work well with the staggering arrivals for boarding.
There have been many conversations about masks everywhere that you look, and the cruise industry is definitely one of those places.
While the situation can change at any moment, the cruise lines have been listening to their doctors and specialists for this.
So, at the beginning, they may require a mask. They’re also going to see how it changes based on the ports you’re going to visit.
Speaking of ports, it also will depend on which one you’re sailing out of. If it’s a requirement there, then it’ll probably continue on the ship when you board.
In a Bubble
In many ways, the cruise lines work in a bubble. Now more than ever, it’ll be very obvious that you’re vacationing within a bubble.
Bubble excursion will be the newest experience for cruisers. It allows for the cruise line to create a safe and controlled environment for its guests.
Guests will do the shore excursions that the cruise lines have certified to be safe. You’ll also be with a group of cruisers from the same ship.
Booking Sooner Rather than Later
When to Book Your Next Cruise?
When booking travel for 2021, but specifically cruises, the panelists had a few suggestions.
Many people are already booking their vacations for next year, which came highly suggested.
With all the vouchers and future cruise credits out there due to cancelations this year, many rooms have already been booked.
Combine that with the limited capacity, especially during high season, and you may find that the room you wanted (or any room!) isn’t available.
Also, for the people waiting for a price decrease, it might not be the best decision to wait, for the exact same reason.
How Should You Book Your Cruise?
When asked how cruisers should go about booking their next cruise vacation, the expert panelists were unanimous: use a travel advisor.
This year’s experience has proven why travel advisors are so important for people to have.
They were the ones who were getting refunds when it wasn’t thought to be possible.
Travel advisors have the best inside information and are a third-party that won’t lead you down a certain path that isn’t the best fit for you.
As Gordon Birker, VP of Business Development for North America at Celestyal, said, “When you buy your house, you use a realtor because it’s a complicated transaction. Travel can be equally complicated. And for most of us, it’s sometimes our most expensive purchase.”
After the Future of Cruising Panel
As the cruise expert panelists answered the final questions, I came away with a sense of knowledge and trust.
Knowledge of how cruising will play out as time goes on and what changes are being made for the better.
Trust in that, when we do begin to cruise again, my family is in safe hands.