When can we take a cruise again?

when can we take a cruise again

If you like to cruise, you’re probably losing your patience by now. Last March, the cruise industry all but shut down and remained beached for the rest of 2020. Now, passengers are eager to know when they can take a cruise again.

In November, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which defined the requirements for resuming operations in U.S. ports. Most major cruise lines won’t start their schedules until late spring.

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But when will it be safe for you to set sail once again? That’s a difficult question to answer, and it depends on your health and how much of a risk you’re willing to take, according to experts.

Cruising could resume soon, but industry watchers say most people won’t feel completely safe on a ship until later this year. Cruise lines are going to extraordinary lengths to keep their vessels coronavirus-free. So how do you know if cruising is safe? Look for a green light from the CDC – and lots of extra safety precautions.

When will cruising start up again?

To resume sailing, the government has set strict standards for cruise lines.

“The lines have to be able to successfully, quickly and cheaply screen passengers before they board,” says Andrew Coggins, a professor at Pace University’s Lubin School of Business. Ships must also have CDC-approved procedures and facilities to identify, isolate and treat any cases that may get through the screening.

Coggins expects some ships to meet those standards in the first half of the year, but most passengers won’t feel safe planning a cruise until the CDC procedures are proven effective.

“The next couple of months will give an indication of whether the industry can return to operations this summer or fall,” he says.

If you’re interested in booking a floating vacation for late 2021, there’s no need to wait, says Tanner Callais, editor of Cruzely.com.

“The good news through this pandemic is that passengers haven’t been out any money, despite the turmoil,” he says. Cruise lines have either refunded passengers or offered a generous credit.

Taking precautions that go ‘beyond ordinary’

Cruise lines have had months to figure out how to keep passengers safe. When Windstar Cruises resumes operation in May, passengers will notice a difference, says Chris Prelog, the company’s president.

“We have a very robust, multilayer safety protocol,” he says. Windstar developed the program, called “Beyond Ordinary Care,” with the University of Colorado’s epidemiology department. It includes hospital-grade elements such as HEPA filters and UV-C germicidal irradiation to filter and sanitize the air, as well as electrostatic sprayers to sanitize all surfaces throughout the vessels.

“We will also add nurses to our onboard medical teams,” Prelog says.

Want to cruise again? Here’s how to decide

Marcella Rappoport, a cruise adviser with Ovation Travel Group, is telling her clients to avoid cruising until May.

Just because the industry says it’s safe doesn’t mean it is. Marcella Rappoport, a cruise adviser with Ovation Travel Group, is telling her clients to avoid cruising until May. “We need the ships to get their safety protocols up to where they need to be,” she says. “The cruise lines are committed to taking the time to train their crews on safety and health protocols, and they are conducting a number of trial sailings to test those protocols in real-world conditions.”

So avoid March and April unless you’re prepared for a little stormy weather.

When should you feel safe at sea?

Andrew Garnett has had a front-row seat to the preparations cruise lines have been making. He’s the CEO of Special Needs Group, a medical equipment and supply company, and works closely with ships to supply respiratory equipment and scooters to ships.

He says cruise passengers should feel safer when they see the triple-redundant systems and strict rules they’re putting in place to ensure the ships are coronavirus-free. But there are also lenient cancellation rules.

“If you book something and you don’t feel like they have it quite right, they will allow you to cancel your upcoming trip and give you the opportunity to either receive a refund or get a future credit that can be as high as 200% of your current booking cost, depending on the cruise line,” he says.

Garnett doesn’t believe lines would resume their schedules unless they could do it safely.

“They have so much to lose if they get this wrong,” he says.

Essential items for your 2021 sailing

If you want to cruise again, here’s what you need:

A vaccine or a negative coronavirus test. Although none of the major cruise lines have announced a vaccine requirement, insiders believe it’s just a matter of time before they do. “Obviously, vaccines will play a very important role going forward,” says Paul Rutter, a customer service expert who works with cruise lines. “But until the vast majority of the population is vaccinated, testing will be key.”

A travel adviser. A cruise can be a complicated purchasing decision. There’s airfare, ground transportation, shore excursions and hotels. Lots of moving parts! And now, there are also health and safety precautions. Annie Scrivanich, senior vice president of Cruise Specialists, says her advisers have been busy learning the new requirements. “They know the onboard protocols and additional measures taken by each cruise line,” she says. “And they are your advocates before, during and after your cruise vacation.”

Travel insurance. To give you peace of mind, consider travel insurance. Most policies will cover medical expenses and evacuation. Even if you don’t have a serious condition, medical transportation to get you home can cost $100,000 or more without insurance. “The cost of insurance is so much less than an air ambulance trip,” says Ben Carothers, a flight coordinator at Global Air Ambulance.

By the way, if you ever have a cruise problem, our advocacy team can help. Here’s how to reach us.