When can we return to (the new) normal and start cruising again?
The questions we are all asking, and longing for the answer. Until the day when we can all enjoy a sail-away party again the popup words of our cruise language today in the midst of the Covid pandemic are Simulated Cruising and Conditional Cruising.
What do they mean and how will it affect our cruising in the future?
Simulated Cruising (or test cruises)
Simulated cruises are mock or test cruises. There are real (volunteer) passengers on board having a real (mini) cruise. But much like a fire drill, mock emergency situations will be practised on board. All passengers will be expected to participate.
So that when we do cruise post-covid, if the need arises then cruise ships can efficiently activate all the new safety procedures. And we will be able to continue cruising safely. Without risk to passengers and crew.
These simulated voyages will help create the framework for Conditional Cruising. Here’s what we know so far:
- Regular testing on board will be required before simulated cruises can leave port
- Testing prior and post cruise will be required for everyone
- On-board face coverings, hand hygiene and social distancing will be required
- Voyages may be free but you will be required to participate in the test activities. Such as evacuation drills and extra covid tests at embarkation and disembarkation. Or quarantining if you or any other passengers has symptoms.
- Volunteers with pre-existing conditions will not be accepted onto simulated cruises. This is due to the higher risk factor if they are exposed to Covid
- No under 18’s are accepted on simulated cruises
- Where and when these simulated cruises will take place has yet to be announced. But cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines have already set up information pages where volunteers can apply to participate.
Conditional Sailing means that the cruise lines must abide by certain procedures during all future cruises. This will allow them to sail without putting crew and passengers at risk.
Simulated cruises described above are one step forward in the cruise lines being able to obtain a conditional cruise certification. Requirements are complicated. As far as we know, follow the outline below:
- Weekly testing and reporting of results for all crew members sailing on the ship
- Some cruise lines will call for passengers and/or crew to have received their vaccinations prior to boarding
- Pre-boarding testing of all passengers sailing on the ship
- Testing facilities must be on all ships
- Hand hygiene, face coverings and social distancing must be observed at all times on board
- Excursions may be restricted and also pre-booked excursions with the cruise line may be the only way in which to be able to disembark the ship at ports of call
- Agreements with port authorities on how the cruise line will accommodate and provide care for any passengers who become sick and who need to disembark
- Some cruise lines such as MSC Cruises have successfully run some 7-night cruises in the Mediterranean already.
Everything is subject to change at any time. Right now cruising is getting under way in European waters. And with more successful cruises, that will be the sign that we can get back on the water as quickly as possible, albeit with conditional cruising.
Book now, cruise later
As it is becoming clearer that many advertised cruises for departure during 2021 may not be running, clearly the return to normal cruising will be gradual.
Cruise lines themselves have also hinted that cruise ships will be fazed back into service gradually, so not all cruises will start immediately when everything gets going again. The processes are in place for a return to sail, but there are no exact dates yet as countries are hit with 3rd waves of the pandemic and countrywide lockdowns are still in place.
Our advice is to look now but book when cruising starts up again. Look at itineraries to cruise in 2022 for a better chance that the cruise you want will be departing as planned.
This way you will get out of the cycle of booking, cancellation, rebooking.
Remember to check the rules of your future cruise credit if you have one. Many FCCs have a deadline stipulating the latest date you need to book. Note that often the expiry date is when you need to book by, not when you need to sail by. But there are exceptions to the rule so do check with your cruise line who issued your FCC what rules apply to you and your future booking possibilities.
But for now the message is clear, you have a much better chance of your cruise departing as planned if you book for 2022 and onwards.
How to start planning your cruise
If you are still in the planning process and need help deciding on the best cruise for you, these articles will help you along the way. They are full of good advice and travel tips to help you book the perfect cruise for you and your family: