How TUI Is Cruising Safely

Mein Schiff Deck

While the German state of Schleswig-Holstein has ordered TUI Cruises to halt cruise service from Kiel as of Nov. 5, the German cruise brand has a perfect safety record, having carried more than 40,000 passengers since July 24 and without a single corona incident, according to Dennis Tetzlaff, director of nautical fleet and health and one of three incident commanders for the cruise line.

“Since starting out of Hamburg and Kiel, we launched service from Greece in September and will begin in the Canary Islands in November,” he added.

The key elements of TUI’s health and safety protocols include testing and quarantine of all crew, testing of all passengers, reduced capacity and social distancing, Tetzlaff said.

A newly created position onboard is that of infection control officer whose responsibilities include cross-checking that all protocols are being implemented and that nothing and nobody slips through.

Passengers that sail from Germany have undergone a rapid antigen test at the terminal and completed a health questionnaire. If they came from a high incident area or country, they were not allowed to board the ship. Passengers have also been screened for their temperature before boarding.

Passengers sailing from Greece or the Canary Islands are required to take a PCR test in advance, which they can do free of charge at facilities of the hospital chain, Helios Clinic, which is working with TUI, or at their private doctor.

Test results are transmitted to TUI Cruises, which in turn shares the results with its airport staff which will deny boarding to anyone testing positive. Passengers will then fly on a charter aircraft to their turnaround port, remaining effective in a TUI “bubble” traveling to and from, cruising aboard their ship and during any shore excursions.

Dennis Tetzlaff

Crew needs to complete PCR testing in their home country before flying and then again before boarding the ship. Once both sets of tests are negative, crew goes into a 14-day quarantine onboard.

Turnarounds are focused on just one port, with no interporting, Tetzlaff said, allowing for an empty ship for a few hours.

“With no guests onboard, we can clean and disinfect the ship thoroughly,” he told Cruise Industry News.

“We are also using cabins on an alternating basis, so a cabin occupied on one sailing, will remain empty on the next one. That means we can focus on public areas during turnarounds and have more time during the cruise to clean the empty cabins so they will be ready for the next sailing.”

“We usually sail with about 3,000 guests, but are now carrying a maximum of 1,500,” Tetzlaff said. “We require social distancing onboard and that guests always wear masks when moving about.”

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Guests have to prebook dining and entertainment to ensure proper spacing in restaurants and the show lounge. They also undergo daily temperature checks, and the ships have equipment and mini labs aboard that can generate PCR results within 70 minutes.

“If a person tests positive, we have allocated isolation cabins that are protected with HEPA filters. Then we would repatriate that guest as soon as possible.”

Furthermore, there are standard procedures in place, according to Tetzlaff, for how to inform the authorities and predetermined procedures for how to offload that person on the different itineraries, as well as how to seal off affected areas and disinfect afterward.

There is also a post-cruise follow up. The cruise line will conduct contact tracing and identify what venues that person has visited and whom they may have been seated with.

“This is a big effort financially,” Tetzlaff added, “but paying off in terms of safety for guests and crew. This shows that you can safely cruise.”

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