Royal Caribbean to test new Covid-19 protocols on ‘cruises to nowhere’

Cruise giant Royal Caribbean is gearing up for its return to the water with a raft of safety measures that will change the way that passengers enjoy a holiday afloat.

Singaporean residents boarding Quantum of the Seas for three-and four-night ‘Ocean Getaways’ – also known as ‘cruises to nowhere’ – in December will find that many things will be different.

For starters, all passengers booked on Quantum must take a Covid-19 test 48 to 72 hours before boarding, and be able to prove a negative result.

Royal Caribbean will cover the cost of tests for sailings departing on or before January 30, 2021, and this may be extended depending on the Covid-19 situation.

In addition to producing a negative test result prior to embarkation, all passengers (as well as crew and port personnel) will have their temperature taken at the terminal.

Quantum of the Seas is still among the largest cruise ships in the world

Anyone who registers an abnormal reading will then undergo a secondary screening with a doctor, who will determine whether they are fit to board.

Once onboard, there will be daily temperature checks and beefed-up medical centres. Passengers can expect more doctors and nurses, enhanced equipment including hospital-grade ventilators with CPAP and BiPAP capabilities and a dedicated Controlled Care Unit – where potentially infectious guests or crew can be cared for away from general medical areas.

The 4,180-passenger capacity Quantum of the Seas will feature 100 per cent fresh ocean air filtered from outdoors to all indoor spaces through its upgraded HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) system.

Royal Caribbean said: “You can breathe easy knowing that, thanks to this robust system, the transmission of aerosol particles between spaces (like those from a cough) is extremely low to virtually impossible – as validated in an independent assessment conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center.”

Frequent deep cleaning and sanitisation onboard is also being introduced as part of the fight against Covid-19, and high traffic areas such as stairways, elevators, escalators and promenades will be cleaned every two hours with gangway rails being cleaned every 20 to 30 minutes during busy times. Cabins will be cleaned daily, but only when passengers are out of their rooms, using “medical grade” disinfectants and detergents.

When she sets sail from Singapore on December 1, Quantum will operate at a reduced passenger capacity of 50 per cent and with the cruises only open to Singapore residents.

Passengers will also be asked to wear face masks –  if you opt for a face shield, you’ll need a mask underneath too – in public spaces and adhere to social distancing rules. Masks can be removed in dining venues when eating and drinking, but social distancing must be maintained. 

When it comes to food and drink, menu items can be ordered through QR codes on smartphones while buffets will now be served by crew clad in face masks and gloves. In line with local Singapore regulations, bars will stop serving alcohol at 10.30pm and live singing and dancing is banned.

As for outdoor activities, masks must be worn at all times except when on the FlowRider surf simulator and the waterslide (although you’ll need to wear your face covering when queuing). Swimming pools and whirlpools, together with the jogging track, will be open with restricted capacity.

Royal Caribbean’s news cleaning protocols continue outside: slides, rides and sports equipment will be sanitised at regular intervals in a bid to keep coronavirus at bay.

It’s hoped that these strict policies will help restore consumer confidence after a year of disruption.

It should be buoyed by the largely successful resumption of cruising in Europe – major lines such as MSC Cruises, Costa Cruises and AIDA Cruises have all returned to the water – and health experts claim that sailing with a cruise line could even be safer than a city break.

New Seabourn president, Josh Leibowitz, told The Telegraph: “What other venue around the world, as you walk in through its gate, gives you a test to find out whether you have this virus or not. That’s the venue I want to be on.”

For those still in need of a confidence booster, Royal Caribbean will cover any Covid-19-related medical treatment onboard, required quarantine accommodation once off the ship and travel home, up to the value of US$18,000 (£13,779), for passengers on Quantum of the Seas’ first sailing from Singapore.

Keith Tan, the chief executive of Singapore Tourism Board, said: “This cruise pilot is a valuable opportunity for cruise operators to reinvent the entire cruise experience in order to regain the confidence of passengers.”

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