In this Cruise News Round-up, we look at the health measures and plans for reopening the Caribbean; which cruise line floated out a brand new ship this month; the innovative cruise tech that could play a role in the industry’s return; and the positive demand for travel shown in the UK.
- Caribbean islands planning to reopen
- Can cutting-edge technology play a role in cruising’s return?
- Virgin Voyages floats out second cruise ship
- UK amongst most keen to return to travel
Caribbean islands planning to reopen
As one of the world’s most popular holiday destinations, many Caribbean islands are keen to reopen and welcome holidaymakers once more. Similar to other regions across the globe, the Caribbean closed its borders and introduced strict regulations due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Following the months of lockdown, the tropical destination is now beginning to welcome back tourists once more. Frank Comito, CEO and Director General of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association said, “thus far, the region has effectively minimised the spread of COVID-19. Health and safety protocols are being put into place, mirroring the international standards which have been recommended and adding more stringent measures to help build traveller confidence; there’s every reason to believe we will be resilient once again.”
Initial plans include the wearing of faces masks upon arrival and enforced social distancing. Puerto Rico has implemented measures for restaurants to operate at a maximum capacity of 25% while the U.S. Virgin Islands has asked visitors looking to travel to the neighbouring islands of St. Thomas, St. Croix or St. John to travel with masks, sanitisers and wipes, and to expect to be screened upon arrival via thermal imaging.
St. Lucia reopened in early June, requiring visitors to present certified proof of a negative COVID-19 test within 48 hours of boarding a flight and asking that face masks are worn upon arrival. Antigua is following similar protocols with its tourism comeback, announcing that arriving visitors to the airports include health declaration forms, screenings, and thermal checks.
Jamaica reopened mid-June to international travellers, with health screening conducted upon arrival and face masks mandatory in airports, taxis, hotels, and resorts. Aruba is planning a similar timeframe for reopening, although the government has advised that this is tentative and may be subject to change. In the meantime, a rigorous hygiene program has been put forward by the Aruba Tourism Authority and the Department of Public Health. This program requires hotels, taxis, restaurants, casinos, stores, and tour operators to earn and display the Aruba Health & Happiness Code gold seal ahead of reopening.
The Bahamas has introduced a similar phase with the Tourism Readiness and Recovery Plan, unveiled by the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism & Aviation. This includes checking temperatures in airports; travellers wearing face masks in ‘any situation where it is necessary to enforce physical distancing guidelines while navigating security and customs screenings and at baggage claim’.
Read more: Caribbean Comeback: A Guide
Can cutting-edge technology play a role in cruising’s return?
From wearable devices to robot crew members, prior to the pandemic, cruise technology was already making waves across the industry. MSC Cruises had revealed Zoe – the world’s first virtual cruise assistant – just last year, and Princess Cruises’ Ocean Medallion was already in place on-board seven ships in the fleet, with a plan to implement it on a further five ships by 2021.
Returning to cruise is something many of us are looking forward to, and it’s clear to see how innovative technologies could play an even bigger part in making life on-board safer and simpler for us all.
For instance, there are already some ways in which cruise technology can offer a touchless environment. The app for Celebrity Cruises’ guests can open doors remotely, while Princess Cruises Ocean Medallion can unlock your cabin, order food and pay for on-board purchases.
“Now is the time where we can be creative and crazy,” says Georg Piantino, a Senior Architect at Norway’s YSA Design – a leading cruise ship design company which has worked alongside Disney, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, and MSC Cruises. He believes smart tech will be like buzzers at fast-casual restaurants, alerting guests when it’s their turn to use the pool deck or gym, as well as appeasing crowd control in embarking or disembarking. Piantino expects casinos to become touchless too and controlled from your phone.
Another example is the Bionic Bar on-board Royal Caribbean. Featuring two robotic bartenders which create a combination of cocktails ordered from an app, the bar already reduces the need for human contact, but in a novelty way. Although at first, the bar offers a fun and alternative approach to enjoying a cosmopolitan, is this now a window into how public areas on-board cruise ships could operate? Reducing human interaction, even for a short time, will minimise risks and enable the crew to be available for other services.
“Cruising has always been a ‘high touch’ business in almost every aspect,” says Chekitan Dev, Professor of Marketing at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. “Going to a ‘less touch’ model is going to have to have cruise companies rethink almost everything they do,” he says.
Many cruise lines have already revealed their new and improved protocols for health and safety – Norwegian Cruise Line recently announced their reopening plans with the fleet-wide installation of medical-grade air filters and social distancing – but the innovative technologies will also help cruisers adjust to returning to ships safely while still enjoying the experience.
Speculation around restaurants particularly includes how menus could be adapted, whether uploaded to mobile apps or projected right onto the table for wow factor. Table projection has already been unveiled on-board Celebrity Edge in 2018 with new restaurant, Le Petit Chef. Using innovative technology and immersive stories, the venue brings your tabletop to life with an animated chef for a dining experience like no other.
While the post-pandemic world is requiring the cruise industry to implement health and safety measures to a high standard, it seems many cruise lines already have smart technology and creative ways to ensure the core of the cruise experience isn’t lost on those longing to return.
Virgin Voyages floats out second ship
Brand-new cruise line Virgin Voyages floated out their second cruise ship this month, named Valiant Lady. The ship is due to launch in March 2021 and will be based in Barcelona ready to offer sailings around the Mediterranean including visits to Monte Carlo, Ibiza, Cagliari and Gibraltar.
The ship is sister to Scarlet Lady which, despite debuting in February, is still yet to start her inaugural sailings due to the ongoing pandemic. Currently, her launch date has been postponed to October 2020 and the official naming has been rescheduled for early 2021.
However, this major milestone with Valiant Lady shows the efforts of the cruise line and marks an important phase of the build which is currently taking place at the Fincantieri shipyard in Genoa, Italy.
The ship will be identical to Scarlet Lady with a guest capacity of 2,770, a strictly adults-only cruise experience and plenty of innovative spaces to enjoy on-board. There will be three itinerary options for guests sailing with Valiant Lady, each of which will feature a Friday overnight stay in Ibiza.
We can’t wait to hear more about this ship’s progress as the construction continues and look forward to welcoming both sister-ships to the cruising family soon. We will keep you updated with any further developments for Virgin Voyages as soon as they are announced.
Read more: Virgin Voyages floats out second ship
The UK amongst most keen to return to travel
A recent survey has revealed that people in the UK are amongst those most looking forward to future travel. The survey, conducted by management consultancy Oliver Wyman in May 2020, asked 4,600 respondents across the globe how they felt about travel plans and future holidays. Countries involved included the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the US, Canada, China, and Australia.
Comprising results across nine leading source markets, the survey reported that two out of three UK adults (64%) wish to travel for leisure the same as planned in 2019, or more than before, once restrictions are lifted. This is compared to 58% in other European markets and 56% when looking at markets worldwide. This shows a great appetite for holidaymakers in the UK and a positive outlook for the nature of travel.
UK travellers also showed one of the lowest rates when asked if they intended to change their travel behaviours, with only 37% likely to change their choice of destination compared with 40% in Germany; 56% in the US, and 77% in Italy. This is another highlight as it shows that people in the UK are longing to return to travel as usual, whether revisiting favourite destinations or planning a trip to somewhere new.
Cruise118 carried out its own survey in May too, which asked customers where they are most likely to visit first once the pandemic is over as well as when they intend to travel to. Many customers agreed that their first choice of destination was the Mediterranean, followed by the Caribbean, and nearly a quarter said they were more likely to consider visiting a bucket-list trip post-lockdown. You can read more about the Cruise118 Travel Trends Survey here.
With regions beginning to lift their restrictions, including the Caribbean and Europe, it’s a positive step towards us returning to travel in the future and how the desire for booking our next holidays is still as strong as ever.
See our previous Cruise News Round-ups:
- Cruise News Round-up: May 2020 #1
- Cruise News Round-up: May 2020 #2
- Cruise News Round-up: June 2020 #1