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When the cruise lines begin to sail again cruise guests will notice some really big changes in order to create a safe environment both for the guests and for the crew.  Over the coming weeks and months we are likely to see the cruise lines begin their preparations for a return to sailing by publishing details of how they will make the necessary changes to keep their guests and crew safe.  The first of the major cruise lines to publish their proposed protocols has been Norwegian Cruise Line.  They have called their proposed protocols Sail Safe and they have set out what both guests and crew can expect as they return to sailing.

Norwegian Cruise Line have worked in close co-operation with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and governments around the world to create this series of protocols that will be put into place immediately and be implemented across the whole fleet.  It is clear these protocols have been put in place to create a safe and reassuring environment for both the guests and the crew of the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet.  It will also hopefully reassure the Port Authorities and Governments that the fleet will visit once they resume sailing.




Norwegian Cruise Line is replacing the air filtration system of all the ships in the fleet.  They are installing what is described as a medical grade air-filtration system that is called H13 HEPA filter.  This is one of the most effective and highest grades of particular air filter.  These filters will remove 99.95% of all airborne pathogens and will remove 99.95% of particulates of 0.1 microns or larger.  To give you some indication of how effective these filters will be in filtering out the COVID-19 particulates, a COVID-19 virus is 0.125.  So it is safe to say that there is virtually no possibility of the virus spreading through the air conditioning.  The spread of the virus through the air conditioning has been a major concern for many cruise guests.




One of the most evident and noticeable of changes will be the enhanced health screening process for guests, but this will also extend to the crew as well.  The enhanced health screening process will start before you even go on board and will continue throughout your holiday.  Before you embark on your cruise there will be an enhanced health screening and anyone considered a risk will have to undergo additional screening.  Crew will also have to undergo extensive screening prior to embarkation and their health screening will continue the voyages.     


There will be touchless temperature screening on a regular basis and these will happen prior to embarkation, upon returning to ship at a port of call, prior to entering any dining venue, prior to any activity in public venues and finally prior to disembarkation.

Norwegian Cruise Line has recognised that if they are to minimise the health risk to guests then they must maintain a healthy crew.  So they are enhancing their Pre-Employment medical examination and they are exploring on board testing that will allow crew members to undergo the latest COVID-19 at any time throughout their employment contract.




At present all the ships in the fleet are deep cleaned and disinfection is carried out before every sailing in accordance with the  CDC’s  Vesssel Sanitation Programme.  However Norwegian Cruise Line will now be also  ensuring the Embarkation Terminals will be  continuously sanitized  and where possible will be fogged  pre and post each sailing embarkation.   Other increased sanitization measures will include fogging of all the staterooms and public areas with the non-toxic disinfectant Hydrochlorus Acid.  It is a powerful oxidant that kills bacteria, spores and viruses.  Hydrochlorus Acid fogging is both natural and safe to use in open areas. 

There will also be an increase in the frequency of particularly continuous disinfection of public areas and busy touch points and there will be continuous cleaning of elevators and public areas at all times.


Whilst Buffets and Beverage stations will continue to operate but they will have full service and staff will be on hand to serve guests.


Guests will be encouraged to frequently wash their hands and use hand sanitiser when entering all food venues and bars and there will be more hand sanitizer stations prominently placed around the ship and easily accessible.




One of the key areas of the protocol is the social distancing measures.  This will cover both the embarkation and on board the ship. 


Norwegian Cruise Line have worked with the port authorities, governments, the CDC and global health authorities to create and implement policies that will allow for proper social distancing during the embarkation process.  To do this all guests will be asked to check in on line and guests will be given a time to embark to allow for staggered embarkation.


To help ensure safe social distancing is possible on board.  Norwegian Cruise Line will be reducing guest capacity by reducing the number of guest cabins and will be reducing the capacity of public spaces and venues.  Norwegian Cruise Line have said that all on board activities will continue, however they will operate at reduced capacity and may slightly modified to ensure social distancing and guest health and safety.



Another key area of the Sail Safe Protocol programme is the Enhanced Medical resources.  This is in response to one of the major concerns of the CDC and governments around the world.  Norwegian Cruise Line have promised to ensure the onboard medical centres will be fully equipped to cope with COVID-19.  They are increasing the number of medical staff across the fleet.  There will be dedicated isolation accommodation if needed.  In addition all ships will have the following kits and medical supplies: Advanced on-site rapid diagnostic testing kits for COVID-19.  This will mean guests who test positive will be able to be treated much earlier.  There will also be more medical oxygen equipment onboard the fleet. They will also hold an increased stock of vaccinations and it appears that when a COVID-19 Vaccination that will be included in the inventory.  They have also promised to have an increased amount of medications that can be used to treat COVID-19.  All crew will be given enhanced health and safety training and will be subject to continuous training and education throughout their employment.


One innovative new post is that each ship will have a new post of Public Health Officer, who will be responsible for overseeing sanitation and outbreak prevention protocols.  They will also monitor the cleanliness of both public areas and staterooms and ensure that the CDC Vessel Sanitation Programme is complied with.




Now it is pretty obvious that if Norwegian Cruise Line are going to maintain a safe environment throughout the embarkation and onboard part of the cruise they will need to ensure that the health and safety must be maintained ashore in Ports of Call must be maintained.  In order to do this they have been working the destinations and tour operators to ensure that the health and sanitation protocols that are keeping guests safe will carry on shoreside too.  They have said that they will only visit safe, open ports and they have made it clear that this may mean an impact on itineraries and possible itinerary changes, which they have said they will keep guests up to date with.


In conclusion It is clear that Norwegian Cruise Line haver put a lot of planning into their return to service and with this protocol announcement have given us an indication of what guests can expect when they start cruising again.  One thing is for certain, that we can expect other cruise lines to follow suit with announcing how they propose to maintain health and safety in these times of change.  Is this the beginning of the Cruise Lines fighting back?


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