I know I’m ready to cruise and you’re probably ready to cruise, but are the cruise lines ready to cruise? Kind of.
At some point, hopefully in the near future, governments from around the world will give cruising the green light to cruise again.
I know you’re ready to cruise right now, I certainly am, but that doesn’t mean that cruise lines are ready.
How Long Will it Take to Get The Crew Back to The Ships?
When Coronavirus became a big problem back in February and March, the cruise lines had massive issues getting their crew back home.
In order to restart cruising again, the cruise lines are going to have to get their crew back and some cruise lines have barely even got their crew home.
On some cruise ships, you’ll find crews have been there since the start of the year. Some haven’t actually gone home yet and some only made it home kind of in July or August.
Why Did Getting The Crew Home Take so Long?
It was so difficult for cruise lines to get their crew home, because the governments of the places where the crew lived would keep changing their regulations.
One day they would say yep, we’re happy to have everybody disembark, the next day they would say nobody’s allowed. It was very, very difficult for the cruise lines to get everybody home, it took months.
Some cruise lines actually just decided to sail their crew home, because it was much easier than trying to fly them back.
What About Travel Bans?
If you are a crew member who’s trying to fly into a country that does have a travel ban, such as the U.S., a lot of countries are letting people travel in if they’re traveling in for the purpose of working on ships.
If you’re flying into the U.S. at the moment and you’re traveling on a C-1 or a D visa, the usual kind of travel restrictions don’t apply. Which is good because when they do decide that we can cruise again, they’re going to need to get thousands of people to the cruise ships.
The average cruise ship has between 1000-2000 crew onboard and to get thousands of people from across the world to the ship, is no easy task.
Can The Cruise Line Charter Flights?
Air travel is becoming more popular and the cruise lines do actually have the power to charter their own flights.
What they could do is they could charter the flights that they need to get their crew back to the ship, but even doing that, you’re probably going to be looking at a couple of weeks to get everybody back to the ship.
How Long do Crew Have to Quarantine For Before They Can Start Work?
Once you have got all of your crew from their home countries back to the country where the cruise ship is, that isn’t it, they can’t just get on the cruise ship and start working.
At the moment crew need to have a Coronavirus test when they leave their home country, then they need to fly to wherever they’re going on the ship.
They need to quarantine there for two weeks, then have another Coronavirus test that also needs to be negative before they can start work on the cruise ship.
That’s going to add on another two weeks.
If you’re talking already two weeks to get everybody to the ship, two more weeks to quarantine them, you can see how this isn’t really a fast thing to do.
Retraining The Crew on COVID Cruising Procedures
Even once you’ve got the crew from across the world, you’ve quarantined them, they’re not going to be ready just to start sailing as they were before.
If you’re somebody who’s worked on cruise ships for 10 years, that doesn’t mean you’re going to know anything about these new procedures.
So many things have changed about cruising since we last cruised and it’s going to take quite a lot of time to train all of the crew.
What will probably happen, is you’ll find they’ll be given some sort of training when they’re still at home, maybe some videos to watch, but there’s going to be loads of extra things that needs to be done in person, weeks of training to get everybody up to the standard that they need to be at.
Of course, this is going to affect some crew members more than others. If you’re somebody who’s front-facing, if you’re working in the buffet or you’re a waiter, your job is going to be quite different from what it was before.
If you’re somebody who works behind the scenes, it’s going to affect you less.
For some crew members, this could mean quite big changes and it could mean new responsibilities.
It is everybody’s responsibility on the cruise to look out for Coronavirus symptoms and to be aware of new procedures that they might have never considered before.
Every crew member is going to be doing more cleaning, they’re going to be social distancing, every element of the job is going to be different from what it was when they last left the cruise ship.
Do Crew Members on Cruise Ships Want to go Back to Work?
Most of the crew members are happy to be back cruising again. A lot of the people who work on cruise ships are supporting families in different countries across the world, and to be able to work again and get a wage is something that they’re wanting to do.
The majority of people I’ve spoken to who work on cruise ships are very, very keen to get back to sea.
Recertifications and Other Technicalities
There are also more technical things to think about that you and I as passengers probably don’t think about when you go on a cruise.
Cruise ships are held to certain standards and they need to make sure that they meet those standards and they get certain certificates for doing so.
One of the big ones is SOLAS, which is safety of life at sea, which you probably know is the reason why we have to have muster drills.
It’s very important that all of the cruise ships have their certificates up to date, because if they haven’t got those, they can’t get any insurance and you can’t cruise without insurance.
It could take quite a while for the cruise ship to get all of its certificates back. It really does depend how long it has been in layup for and how much it has been used when it’s been in layup.
Some cruise ships have been moving around and some have been reduced to really minimum levels of crew. There is a certain level where if you go below that of crew, you’re not allowed to move your cruise ship or pretty much use it.
Some cruise ships have been heading towards that during this Coronavirus pandemic.
Warm Layups Mean That Ships Can be Ready Faster
Most of the cruise ships are in what is called a warm layup, which means that they’re pretty much just stopped offshore and they are ready to go.
Some cruise ships have moved more into a cold layup, which is pretty much where you turn the cruise ship off.
What Amendments do Cruise Ships Need Before we Can Sail Again?
Once the government has said that they’re happy for us to cruise, the cruise lines have decided, yep, we want to cruise, they’ve gone out and they’ve got all of their crew. They’ve brought them back, they’ve quarantined them, they’ve trained them and they’re ready to sail.
There’s still one thing that they need to do, they need to kit out that cruise ship as ship fit for the post Coronavirus outbreak era.
They’re going to have to install screens, they’re going to have to install markers, they’re going to have to install extra sinks and hand sanitizers.
It is not going to be an easy job to completely refit all these cruise ships to the new higher standards.
The cruise lines are also going to have to make sure that they can source all of these items.
Will The Cruise Lines be Able to Get What They Need?
Throughout this Coronavirus pandemic, supply chains have kind of just slowed down as factories have stopped working.
It could be difficult for them to source everything that they need for all of their cruise ships.
They’re also going to need people who can install the new items and people who can plan it, that is not easy.
That will take multiple weeks per cruise ship.
Will Some Cruise Lines Start Sooner Than Others?
Some cruise lines are in a much better position than other cruise lines when it comes to returning to cruising.
Some already have technology built into the cruise ships that they’re going to be able to use to track and trace passengers.
If a cruise line doesn’t have the technology already built into their ships, they still can track and trace their passengers, but that just makes it a bit easier if they’ve already got everything they need built into their cruise ships.
Installing Track and Trace Hardware
In Europe, MSC have been sailing, they’ve been sailing very successfully.
There are thousands of people cruising on MSC cruise ships right now in Europe and there are various other cruise lines who are also starting up in Europe at the moment.
One of the benefits that MSC has is that they have this thing called MSC for Me, it’s a wristband, and they’ve got technology all over the cruise ship which they use to track and trace their passengers.
Princess also have the Ocean Medallion, shown below.
When Will we be Able to Cruise Again?
When the government says we can cruise, the cruise lines need to get their crew and bring them to the cruise ship, that’ll probably take a couple of weeks.
Then they need to quarantine them for a couple of weeks, train them for a couple of weeks, refit the ship, that could probably be done at the same time as the training, and then move that cruise ship to where it’s sailing.
As you can see, this isn’t a fast thing. It’ll realistically take a month or two to get a ship ready to sail again.
It isn’t the case of we’ll just hit the go switch and then we’ll be ready to cruise again. I wish it worked like that, but unfortunately, it doesn’t.
Reduced Capacity and a Staggered Return to Cruising
It’s worth bearing in mind that the cruise lines aren’t just going to decide, yes, we’re going to sail and we’ll set sail on all of our cruise ships at full capacity right now.
What they’re likely to do is they’re likely to start with one ship, two ship and build back up to their full fleet.
This is good because it allows the cruise lines to kind of organize their return to cruising based on where their ships are.
If they’ve got ships that are ready to go and they’re close to the place where they’re actually sailing, they may decide to start with those ships.
This is a process and it is going to take a long time but it is going to be so worth it.
I don’t know about you, but I cannot wait to get back to cruising. I’ve been cruising since I was a child, I took my first cruise at 11 years old, and I’ve been addicted to it ever since.