River cruising has restarted in Europe and so far, so good. Following guidelines from the European Union to resume cruising have shown early signs of success. Cruising in the USA will resume once the Center for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) issues their guidelines. In the meantime, committees like the Healthy Sail Panel formed by Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. will use the guidelines from the European Union as a blueprint. No doubt, MSC’s Blue Ribbon Group will also follow similar guidelines to get their ships sailing once again.
In the meantime, the River Cruising ships in Europe are resuming operations successfully. There are many reasons for river cruises to be successful during this time, but one of the main reasons is simply that they are close to home.
Swiss operator Scylla runs a fleet of river boats and they completed their first post-COVID cruise in June. With reduced guest capacity, they sailed from Passau to Dusseldof, Germany. It was 13 days of sailing along the Danube, Main and Rhine rivers. They introduced new protocols which was an adjustment for passengers and crew alike. They took regular temperature checks, implemented one-way hallways on the ship, extra sanitizing measures, and of course social distancing. “Both guests and crew mastered these challenges with flying colours. Our first post-lockdown river cruise went without a hitch,” said Arno Reitsma, CEO of Scylla.
A-ROSA River Cruises also resumed sailings in June and continues to expand its itineraries as borders continue to reopen in Europe. They started with Douro sailings in Portugal and next will be their French operation in July. “We are delighted to be cruising again on Europe’s most beautiful rivers. Naturally, we eagerly awaited feedback from the first guests that we welcomed on board. We are thrilled that it was very positive. It paid off to thoroughly plan and meticulously implement our new hygiene and health concept, providing a safe environment for our guests, yet making sure that they have a wonderful time. The quality of our offering even improved in some areas,” reports Jörg Eichler, CEO A-ROSA River Cruises. They have also reduced capacity for the first sailings and will adjust as restrictions change. Services such as spa and shore excursions have continued with reduced capacity. Social distancing and barriers, where possible, are also noticeable changes going forward.
In a recent Seatrade webinar, Jon Burrows, VP Operations, AmaWaterways said their ships do not recirculate air as is done on most large cruise ships. They have also complied with the regulations set forth by the European Union such as extra sanitization, social distancing, plexiglass barriers, reduced capacity and more. He also pointed out a change using psychology more than anything else; instead of cleaning when guests are not around as has been done in the past, they are now cleaning in front of guests out in the open. This instills confidence in the cleanliness and actually makes guests more comfortable. Simple steps like this can make a huge difference.
Although COVID-19 has been a complicated new virus that has sent the world into a whirlwind, easy measures like social distancing, extra cleaning, and smaller groups, have proven to be successful measures. River cruising has shown that we can implement these measures and still enjoy cruising the world.
This post was written by cruise expert, Shannon Mckee, founder of Access Cruise Inc. Access Cruise Inc is a Miami based cruise marketing and sales consulting group, specializing in product and business development within the cruise industry.