Social distancing and enhanced hygiene measures could negatively affect many of the features that made cruising such a desirable experience for holidaymakers.
European river cruise line A-ROSA has announced a series of social distancing measures to ensure passengers remain safe onboard. A minimum distance of 1.5 metres will apply across each vessel, which will be implemented using aisles as ‘one-way-streets’. Floor markings and the reduced size of the dining areas are amongst other measures being taken.
As well as social distancing, passengers and crew will be required to wear full mouth and nose covering in indoor public areas. The number of people on excursions will be reduced and cutlery racks, table decorations and menus will be removed.
Unfortunately, having such a regimented experience will inevitably impact passenger experience. Many passengers could find the experience intrusive and ultimately decide on a different type of holiday.
Social distancing could lead to an increase in customer costs
A-ROSA are not the only company making drastic changes to their operations. The TUI Group stated it expects to restart cruise services this summer, but with less occupancy. The company said the changes will start at boarding, with new health questionnaires, pre-boarding screening and staggered boarding groups. The company plans to start sailing at approximately one-third occupancy.
Cruise companies have lost enormous amounts of money due to the impacts created by COVID-19. Royal Caribbean has reported a US$1.4bn loss in Q1, highlighting the devastating financial implications of the coronavirus pandemic. This means cruise companies will be eager to make up for poor financial performances in the first half of the year. This could lead to an increase in ticketing prices for customers to balance out the lack of passengers due to social distancing restrictions.
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It is essential that cruise liners put a number of health and safety procedures in place to reduce the chances of COVID-19 spreading throughout a ship. Much of the criticism that has been aimed at cruise lines is due to their lack of action when the virus began to spread on their vessels. The kind of measures outlined above illustrates that cruise companies are learning from the mistakes made previously.
However, a lesser consumer experience combined with potentially higher costs could deter a significant number of potential customers, making the months ahead a real struggle for the entire cruise industry.