Post-COVID, cruise could be the safest kind of hol­i­day

Cruise Weekly - - News -

Bruce Nieren­berg is the for­mer CEO of Costa Cruises, for­mer EVP of Nor­we­gian Cruise Line, and founder of mul­ti­ple others, in­clud­ing Vic­tory Cruise Lines.

NEI­THER the cruise in­dus­try nor any other sec­tor of the travel and tourism in­dus­try could ever have enough plans in place for the to­tal melt­down that just hap­pened, but the Cen­ters for Disease Con­trol and Preven­tion (CDC) has been im­bal­anced in its re­sponse to the cruise in­dus­try in com­par­i­son to land-based re­sorts and other travel venues.

Yes, there were things that could have been han­dled bet­ter, but I have not seen one story or com­ment about deaths and COVID-19 cases ex­cept when it’s about cruis­ing.

In fact, while the CDC has shut down the cruise in­dus­try un­til it comes back with a solid plan for re-en­try, why have re­sort busi­ness been given a free pass and al­lowed to re­open with­out such re­quire­ments?

The irony is that a cruise ship with the proper pro­to­cols and pro­tec­tions in place is at least as se­cure as a land-based ho­tel or re­sort, and in many ways safer.

Why? As­sum­ing, again, pro­to­cols are up­dated for both a cruise ship and a land-based re­sort, there are very con­trolled exit and en­try points on a cruise ship. The ser­vice per­son­nel on a ship live in the ves­sel and don’t go home at night. At a land-based re­sort there are no con­trols in place to limit out­siders from com­ing into the ho­tel or eat­ing meals at the ho­tel, even if they are not stay­ing at the ho­tel and the work­ers leave the prop­erty ev­ery day af­ter work and there­fore are ex­posed to the con­di­tions of the en­tire com­mu­nity they live in. Not so with cruise per­son­nel.

I’m not say­ing that any va­ca­tion al­ter­na­tive de­serves a free pass. In fact, all va­ca­tion des­ti­na­tions and trans­porta­tion sys­tems need to be held ac­count­able.

For the cruise lines, they should take this op­por­tu­nity, with more than 90% of ships in the world laid up, to present to the CDC a bul­let-proof new health safety op­er­a­tion pro­to­col that in­cludes the em­barka­tion process and the pro­tec­tion of guests when in ports of call and which pro­tects the com­mu­ni­ties the ships visit.

In all cases, the ship own­ers on­board the phys­i­cal plants of their ships could and should in­stall mod­ern new tech­nol­ogy that is avail­able into their A/C sys­tems that one way or an­other pu­ri­fies the air we breathe 23,000 times per day, and if the right tech is cho­sen can even turn the air into a con­stant 24/7/365 de­stroyer of pathogens and bac­te­ria on the en­tire ves­sel for pas­sen­gers and crew any­where the air flows to.

These de­vices can be eas­ily and eco­nom­i­cally in­stalled in any ship HVAC sys­tem and can also be used when in­di­vid­ual A/C units are in each cabin.

They could also ap­ply avail­able new high-tech solutions to all sur­faces on the ves­sel, both in­side and outside on decks, which also ac­tively kill pathogens and virus/bac­te­rial agents.

You can even add new solutions to the laun­dry that are much safer than tra­di­tional laun­dry prod­ucts and make the tex­tiles on­board com­pletely safe to use, as well as al­low­ing them to con­tinue to kill pathogens af­ter the item is in use.

It’s up to the cruise in­dus­try to do the right thing. If it does, it can develop and present a so­lu­tion to the CDC that will put cruises head and shoul­ders above the re­main­der of the re­sort busi­ness. These are solid quan­tum changes in the pro­tec­tions pro­vided by va­ca­tion al­ter­na­tives. It’s way above the pro­ce­dures used by the in­dus­try to ‘spray and pray’, as they have done for years.

We can’t re­verse the re­sults of the pan­demic but it would be crim­i­nal if we didn’t take the op­por­tu­nity to use this ter­ri­ble event to make our in­dus­try safer in a mean­ing­ful way and give it the best prod­uct avail­able to min­imise any fu­ture at­tacks from the un­known disease world, which his­tor­i­cally we can ex­pect ev­ery five-10 years.

Un­til a vac­cine is read­ily avail­able for every­one, which will have a huge im­pact on va­ca­tion de­mand, we can also add tem­po­rary re­duced ca­pac­ity and so­cial dis­tanc­ing on­board and masks and gloves, etc. That’s okay, but there is not a ship or ho­tel built that was de­signed to make money with half its space not avail­able for sale.

Plus, va­ca­tion­ers and staff walk­ing around with so much pro­tec­tive gear on they are ready for heart surgery is not the va­ca­tion en­vi­ron­ment peo­ple want. Okay for now un­til a vac­cine is ready, but I have seen too much of it be­ing “the so­lu­tion”. That’s not the case. If the in­dus­try does the right thing, we can have nor­mal va­ca­tion ex­pe­ri­ences for our guests.

The cruise in­dus­try has been one of the most in­no­va­tive sec­tors of tourism over the past 30-plus years. Its in­no­va­tion in phys­i­cal plants, itin­er­ar­ies and ac­tiv­i­ties on­board are amaz­ing. What’s sur­pris­ing is, that while will­ing to in­vest bil­lions in these amaz­ing new prod­ucts, in­cred­i­ble ships and re­sorts, they stum­ble through the process re­quired to pro­tect those in­vest­ments. Wouldn’t it be won­der­ful if they united and did it to­gether? Safety, health and se­cu­rity are not com­pet­i­tive is­sues for the mar­ket­place, they are ba­sic re­quire­ments of what peo­ple ex­pect when they travel. By tak­ing ad­van­tage of how ships are built, cruises have the chance to re-en­ter the mar­ket as the safest va­ca­tion des­ti­na­tion on earth.

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