“There is no silver bullet to fight COVID-19, this is a multi-level approach,” Frank Weber, senior vice president of hotel operations for Virgin Voyages told Cruise Industry News. “The first step is to keep it off the ship, and then it comes down to the mitigating factors we have onboard, detection, and to be prepared if someone does test positive.
“We will screen and test our sailors (guests) before they come onboard. We will also sanitize the terminal, boarding will be staggered and with health questionnaires, temperature checks and other touchless technologies.
“And that covers anybody going on the ship, whether sailors, crew as well as contractors and authorities.”
The second barrier is onboard. Weber said Virgin has measures in place, including temperature checks, to detect and avoid the potential spread of the virus.
“Onboard it will also come down to mitigating factors,” he added, “such as physical distancing, sanitation, monitoring, health care, cleaning, and air treatment.”
DeCurtis Shield kiosks will be used at entry and exit points to seamlessly screen for elevated body temperature, integrated with sailors’ health questionnaire, as well as other screening actions like mask detection, according to a statement from the cruise line.
“Next is what happens if someone onboard tests positive. We will offer free health checks to our sailors, and we have an isolation and quarantine plan in place,” Weber said.
Crew will be tested before they leave their home countries and again when they arrive at the ship and will be quarantined onboard and then tested again before they start work.
The cruise experience aboard the Scarlet Lady will not be that different, according to Weber. “We will start with lower occupancy and have protocols in place to avoid lines. Our ship is already conducive to this. We do not have a big main dining room where people line up. Instead, we have many smaller venues, none larger than 200 seats. We already have staggered seatings so we can manage the volume and capacity in our restaurants without a problem.
“And we did not have a buffet to start with. We wanted to avoid the mass production of food, going to individual preparation of dishes instead, which is better from a presentation, quality, and health perspective.”
For shore excursions, the key – at least initially – will be to make sure they are managed in a controlled manner, Weber added. “We are working with shore excursion providers; they have to meet certain protocols, and they have to be screened and tested as well. Sailors will have to stay with the tour they signed up for, being in the bubble, making sure we are not bringing anything back onboard.
“Over the years, the industry has gone above and beyond to keep its ships healthy and safe,” Weber said. “We have worked with the CDC for decades on sanitation, and we have battled other contagious viruses for years, like norovirus, so we already have a lot of protocols in place.
“We have a very strong base and culture to build on – industrywide – to have a safe operation.
“We have the ship, which is the bubble. We can control and manage what happens in that bubble. A ship offers a completely closed and controlled environment. It is much more controlled and safer than a restaurant, hotel, or airport terminal. We have created the safest vacation you can have.”