The Covid-19 pandemic all but sent the cruise industry underwater. As the months ticked on, it appeared as if coming up for air seemed like a very bleak possibility.
According to the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the industry generates £10 billion (₹1 trillion) each year for the UK economy, and just a three-month wipe out cost £287 million (₹28.7 billion) in wages as thousands lost their jobs. And this is just one country. As the pandemic drags on, the numbers increase and the light at the end of the tunnel seems exceedingly distant and very weak indeed.
But there has been good news. As cruise ship companies await updates from government organisations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US, vaccines are being rolled out rather efficiently in countries across the globe.
CLIA stated only recently that more than 360,000 passengers have sailed since last summer in places including Singapore and parts of Europe. Ships have already begun taking bookings and there are customers reserving cabins for the end of 2021 and after.
P&O Cruises announced this month week-long cruises on its new ship Iona and short trips on the flagship Britannia in the summer of this year, offering guests a chance to treat themselves. They will certainly be looking forward to time away from the confines of their homes. The cruises are sticking to the UK coastline; P&O stated it would consider the weather forecast and sail where ‘it is warm and sunny’.
This is good news for staff, including cruise ship chefs, as gourmet dining, poolside restaurants, cocktails and coffees will be offered on board. All guests will be required to be UK residents, and have a vaccination certificate as well as travel insurance.
Independence by American Cruise Lines also set sail on its first voyage since COVID-19 sent the world into a tizzy. It’s a 100-passenger ship and is also keeping its voyages to US territories along with the American Jazz. All cruise ships from this company are maintaining 75 per cent capacity with a requirement for all boarding guests and crew to have COVID-19 negative certificates. There are additional protocols on board including daily health checks, mask-wearing, social distancing, isolated HVAC equipment to reduce germ spread, touch-free boarding and check-in, smaller groups for shore excursions and increased sanitisation.
Virgin Voyages has gone a step ahead and introduced new technology called Atmosphere – an air purification system that uses bipolar ionization to proactively kill bacteria and viruses in the air. The MSC Grandiosa is looking at wristbands that allow guests to open cabin doors without touching handles and also make payments.
In India, too, the industry is looking up, also aiming at domestic travellers as companies get back on their feet. The Sant Chatwal Group has refurbished Jalesh Cruises and revealed that it is looking at operating ships under the brand Cordelia Cruises. The country could see sailing from May onwards between Goa, Mumbai, Lakshadweep and Sri Lanka. The company has also bought Empress of the Seas from Royal Caribbean International, welcome news for cruise ship job seekers in India.
As the sector takes measures to mitigate the damage done by the pandemic – such as reduced prices, discounts, domestic-only cruising, regular testing and anti-COVID measures, passenger trends too could change. The industry could be looking at guests with children rather than older parents as those above 70 are still being discouraged.
Overall, cruising will change, at least for the foreseeable future, but current news indicates things will certainly be looking up.