Positive Covid-19 cases on the first cruise since March in the Caribbean does not exert confidence for travellers
Even after testing protocols, which includes the must of multiple negative PCR tests before boarding, seven passengers and two crew members on board SeaDream 1 tested positive for Covid-19. This was the first voyage in the Caribbean since March, when the pandemic sent the cruise industry in to descent.
The damage may not only be to SeaDream Yacht Club’s image, but to the rest of the industry, which has already received numerous blows this year. After an unsuccessful start to resuming voyages, SeaDream has again postponed Caribbean sailings until early 2021.
Many cruise passengers who had trips cancelled for 2020, have booked sailings for 2021. Many of which are using FCC (Future Cruise Credit), offered in place of a full refund at an inflated rate to spend on a future voyage. Initially, rebooked cruises for 2021 seemed a ‘safe’ option. However, as the pandemic has grumbled on, voyages into early 2021 seem increasingly unlikely.
Removal of the ‘No Sail Order’ is a positive step but will not directly transform to results
The CDC (Center for Disease Control) removed the ‘No Sail Order’ in the US on the 2 November, and changed to ‘Conditional Sail Order’. This does not mean that cruises can operate as normal and companies must still liaise with the CDC before sailing. New measures will include testing and additional safeguarding for crew members.
Whilst this is a positive step for sailing again in the US, some parts of the rest of the world such as Europe, are far away from this milestone as lockdown measures are still in place in many countries.
When cruises do fully resume in the US, itineraries may have to be kept shorter than usual in order to avoid confusion or banned dockings in other global regions. This could cause confusion for cruise companies as rules and regulations are changing in each country on a daily basis, making it hard for them to keep up.
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Cruise operators are creating alternative revenue streams to keep afloat
Other industries in the tourism sector have created innovative ways to boost revenue during this sustained period of low demand, and cruise companies should look to do the same. Airlines such as Qantas have released a ‘care package’ sleepwear range and hotels have opened their facilities to work-from-home employees who are wanting a change of scenery.
Cruise companies could use their docked ships as pay-per attractions to maintain an income. Cruises are rich in attractions such as entertainment venues, spa facilities, cinemas and restaurants.
P&O Cruises, based in Southampton, UK, is to launch the ‘World’s first gin distillery at sea’, creating a tourist attraction for passengers and an additional revenue stream. This is a step in the right direction and this kind of innovative thinking needs to be replicated by the rest of the cruise industry.