The year 2020 started great, with cruise lines predicting record bookings at the start of the year and passenger numbers projected to jump up by several million compared to 2019.
How different things became in February and March. With COVID-19 outbreaks on several vessels, ships detained in ports worldwide, crew members stuck on board for many months, and the cruise industry under immense scrutiny from government agencies and the mainstream press, 2020 turned out to be a year many will want to forget.
If cruising is to become the place that millions choose for their holidays, cruise lines will need to tread carefully in 2021. We look at what cruise lines will need to do to make 2021 a success and bring back cruising, as we all know and love.
The CDC – Make or Break
The Framework for conditional sailing is already putting a significant strain on the industry. The protocols and regulations that have been put in place will cost the cruise line industry millions, if not billions, to implement.
However, if cruising is to come back, there is no way that these measures should not be implemented.
So what measures will be noticeable by the public? Below are just a few things that cruise ships will need to implement:
100% testing for all passengers and crew onboard
Ships will be sailing at a maximum capacity of 60-70%, depending on the number of cabins and space available onboard.
Vessels will need to build testing capability onboard. Yes, ships will need a COVID-19 testing facility.
Social distancing and mask-wearing will be a feature for the time being. 2021 will not see cruises without them.
Not only this, ships will need ICU beds, increased hospital space and personnel, quarantine cabins separate from other cabins, the ability to give crew members a single cabin in case of an outbreak onboard. The list goes on.
Even with all these requirements implemented, the CDC says the rules and regulations are subject to change. What does this mean?
If a significant increase in covid cases happens ashore, or a large outbreak onboard a ship occurs anywhere in the world, the agency could well stop cruising again. Therefore, it is really up to the cruise companies to ensure everything is perfect onboard the ships.
The International Press- Bad Cruise News Sells
The mainstream press had a great year reporting on the cruise industry. With more than 800 cases of confirmed COVID-19 instances that occurred during outbreaks on three cruise ship voyages in March, the images of ships docked in ports with guests in quarantine are something the cruise industry needs to avoid at all costs.
Bad press sells. In recent weeks the minor outbreak onboard Seadream 1 and the false-positive onboard Quantum of the Seas in Singapore received significant attention in various major news outlets.
In 2021 the cruise industry will need to find ways to deal with cases on board the ships and communicate those cases.
Companies will need to deflect bad news and instill confidence. How can they do this?
First of all, communicate any cases openly, and inform the public of the measures in place.
Second, the cruise lines will need to be extremely strict with the standards onboard. It only takes one post on Twitter, which shows measures are not implemented, to cause a storm of media reports.
The Environmental Impact Of Cruising
Between 2020 and 2025, 22 LNG-powered cruise ships will be commissioned worldwide, while four are already sailing or have been delivered. Cruise ships have been seen as a significant impact on the environment.
We’ve all seen images of cruise ships blowing out black smoke. The fact that cruise lines are now making the step towards LNG can only be seen as a positive.
For 2021, it would be a great image booster for the cruise industry to market LNG as a turning point in cruising’s environmental impact. Carnival Corporation is an example of how a company can go from one widely criticized, to one that has turned around and made cruising cleaner and greener.
It is now up to the cruise lines and government agencies to start focusing on a positive return of cruising. Companies like Royal Caribbean, Costa Cruises, MSC, TUI, and Dream Cruises have shown that it is possible to sail safely.
The industry needs ships sailing in the largest cruise markets worldwide without incidents and communicating how safe it can be.
The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines will undoubtedly have a serious positive impact on the virus itself and how much it spreads. By itself, the vaccines will not be able to save the cruise industry.
In 2021, cruises sailing without incident from the USA, Europe, and Asia will enable a multi-billion dollar industry, on which millions of people rely, to come back as strong as ever.