The Safe Return of Cruising

If you’re a cruiser, you love cruising and probably already have one booked for 2021. If you’re not a cruiser, you might be thinking there are some deals to be had. To an extent, you’re right, but you shouldn’t wait too long to make your booking for next year. That’s because demand is sky-high (thanks to all those dedicated cruisers). With the CDC likely to extend its no-sail order for ships with more than 250 passengers through the end of the year, most lines aren’t restarting until 2021. And when they do start, they won’t be at 100% occupancy. So just like with premium hotels and tours, space will be limited and if you don’t book early you could end up waiting for a year or two.

During their time away, the cruise lines have been busy putting together panels of experts in infectious disease, public health, hospitality and maritime operations to ensure they can deliver safe and fun experiences on the high seas. The measures they’re implementing will begin before you even board the ship, with enhanced screening in the terminal before passengers board and negative COVID tests likely to be required. The traditional muster drills at the beginning of the cruise will be done electronically, either via app or in-cabin TV to avoid gathering in large crowds. Masks will be required in public areas, and extra space will be allotted for distancing in restaurants and at shows.

Cleaning protocols will be stringent, with every surface throughout the ship routinely sanitized. Even before the pandemic, Lindblad Expeditions introduced the industry’s first self-disinfecting fleet, powered by the ACT CleanCoat system that breaks down unwanted microbes via a photocatalytic process.

If you want to secure space but still not sure how you’ll feel about cruising next year, that’s OK. Cancellation policies are incredibly flexible, with most giving you until 48 or even 24 hours before sailing to change your mind without losing money. The cruise lines and your advisor want you to feel comfortable, not pressured. If you’re not sure what your schedule will look like next year—and let’s be honest, who among us is?—it’s easy to adjust your cruise dates without penalty, so long as there’s space.

Remember, that no-sail order applies only to ships with 250 or more passengers. Small ships, already a fantastic way to have a more intimate experience and get into smaller ports the big ships can’t even reach, can still sail. That means small ships such as those from UnCruise Adventures, SeaDream Yacht Club, Azamara and others are sailing, and adding some unique itineraries to their repertoires.

Cruises will be back and better than ever. The question is, will there be any space left by the time you book?

Travel Dreaming: Health & Safety on Your Next Trip

As advisors, we’ve always focused on helping our travelers make the most of their experiences. Delivering the most value possible and providing peace of mind is what luxury means to us. In the current climate, the new luxury is health and safety. Largay Travel president Amanda Klimak spoke as part of our Travel Dreaming series with representatives from the airline, hotel and cruise sectors to discuss how they’re working to ensure safety when we send our clients into their care. Whenever you’re ready to travel, we want to send you out as well prepared and protected as possible.

While we’ve been working hard to devise some incredible road trips by car and RV for the summer, most journeys still begin with a flight. That of course involves not just the time you spend on the plane, but the time in the airport and going through security. Delta, which is blocking off middle seats through at least Sept. 30 and banning passengers who refuse to wear masks, is sending out pre-departure emails to remind travelers what to expect.

“No. 1, it’ll tell you don’t forget your mask,” Delta sales account executive Kyle Hassell said, “and it will also tell you to pack some snacks, because other than Starbucks being open there’s not a lot of airport concessions open yet because of the lower demand on flights.”

You can do contactless check-in via the Fly Delta app or on kiosks at the airport that are wiped down after every use. When checking in, you’ll fill out a quick health questionnaire and agree to the mask policy. If you have a medical condition preventing you from wearing a mask, Delta recommends arriving an hour earlier to the airport to give you plenty of time for a phone call with the doctors at STAT-MD who can assess and clear you for boarding. The baggage area is sanitized regularly and clearly marked with social distancing place markers.

Boarding is back to front, 10 passengers at a time. On board, the air is partially recycled, but many plane types bring in air from outside, and the air you’re breathing is from your row only and sent through a HEPA filter before coming back out of your personal vent. The air is refreshed every 2-5 minutes, and flight attendants clean the bathrooms every 30 minutes.

Once you’re on the ground and at your accommodations, Marriott is leading the way in hotel safety with a core set of 10 standards devised by health experts. In addition to complying with local regulations, the “Cleanliness Champion” at each property oversees the implementation of these enhancements. Guests are required to wear masks in public spaces at all Marriott properties. “We are constantly evolving to make sure our hotels are as clean as possible and as safe as possible in preventing the transmission of the virus,” Alexis Romer, VP of sales for Marriott International Luxury Brands, said.

Contactless check-in is available through the Marriott app, and restaurant menus are either single-use or QR code-based. Tables are spread out to allow enough distance for safe and comfortable dining. Before arrival, Marriott communicates to guests which areas of the hotel are open and what the protocols are so there are no surprises.

Cruise ships over 250 passengers are on a no-sail order through September. They’re using the time to revamp safety procedures. Royal Caribbean Group (which includes Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity, Azamara and Silversea cruises) has partnered with a Health Sail panel of doctors co-chaired by former secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt.

Royal Caribbean will return to the seas at 60-70% capacity to ensure plenty of room in public areas, including socially distanced reserved seating at shows. Rather than doing a group lifeboat drill at the beginning of the cruise, guests can do the muster drill ahead of time through the Royal Caribbean app or on the TV in your stateroom. Pre-boarding protocols are still being designed, but guests will most likely have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test and masks will be required in the congested terminal area at boarding.

As for stepping off the ship in port, “we’re going to have exclusive shore excursions,” Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International senior VP of sales said. “We’re going to make sure that the providers we use are capable of providing a safe environment.”

The last thing we or our partners want is for our travelers to get sick or get others sick. Whenever you’re ready, we’re here to provide you with the information you need to travel safely.

With passion and adventure,

Stefany