What are Ocean Cruise lines doing these days? We know they are not sailing - at least not with US passengers. We recently received a note from Celebrity cruises that answered this exact question. I thought I'd share the highlights with you.
Celebrity has been developing and implementing new procedures to be CDC compliant. They are the first cruise line to have all their ships designated "green" by the CDC. They've also repatriated all non essential staff so that only essential staff remain on board. These are the people responsible for taking care of the ship. The new "Edge" comes into Miami home port every couple of weeks to pick up fresh foods, relieve crew members and bring supplies to other ships in the Bahamas.
Healthy sail and return panel
Celebrity has assembled an advisory panel of experts: physicians, scientists and public health experts. The panel includes Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the US food and drug administration, the chief patient officer for Merck, a former commissioner of the FDA, a biosecurity expert, two infectious disease experts, the dean of hotel administration at Cornell, and the chief medical officer for Royal Caribbean. This impressive panel will provide advice on a healthy return to normal service.
There's going to be lots of operational changes. For example, they've changed their mustering procedures in a way that eliminates the need for large group assemblies. It remains to be seen what they do for social distancing in bars and restaurants, but I'm sure this panel is working on it.
Celebrity continues to build flexibility into the booking process. One way is with a more lenient cancellation policy. Another is with a program called "lift and shift" which allows an option to move vacation plans to the following year with minimal penalty. Virtually all the suppliers are offering versions of both of these programs. In some cases, there's also additional insurance or travel protection programs available.
Ready, Set, Go?
Personally, we're waiting for the vaccine to be widely available before we go on an ocean cruise ship. But everyone has to make their own decisions based on their individual health, the potential to expose the more vulnerable among us, and your own risk/reward trade off. It seems the cruise lines are finally on the right track in terms of recognition that major changes are necessary prior to setting sail again. Globally Celebrity has suspended all operations until Oct 31, 2020, but we wouldn't be surprised if that gets moved back yet again.
Let me know if you have questions or comments. It's fun to plan some future trips to far off places but it's important to be realistic about safety and your health. We'll make sure we put all the facts out on the table for you.