Those of us who love to travel have learnt to mitigate these risks through measures like booking with a travel agent, buying adequate travel insurance and making sure our holidays are protected by ABTA and ATOL. The reality of the world today is that things are currently more uncertain than ever, but this just means that we need to look for new ways to deal with this increased uncertainty. One way is to book a cruise - here are just a few of the reasons why a cruise is the right choice for your next holiday…
1. Industry-leading protection for your booking
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the vast majority of cruise lines have gone above and beyond other travel operators, offering guests with cancelled voyages significant incentives to move their holiday to a future date or the option of a full refund. Up to 125% of the cruise value is still being offered to guests whose travel is affected by coronavirus.
Flexible cancellation terms and conditions mean some cruise lines are offering future cruise credits for cancellations for any reason up to the day of departure, so your cruise booking has never been more protected.
It has been reassuring to see this approach from cruise lines, especially when many headlines decried the travel industry's response to the global travel disruption, highlighting inflexible cancellation policies and the refusal to issue refunds.
2. An unrivalled choice of destinations
The majority of cruise lines operate sizable fleets of luxury vessels that sail worldwide, with some offering exciting expedition programmes and others enriching river cruise itineraries, in addition to classic ocean cruises. This choice means that should a particular region or country become off limits, there will be plenty of other destinations to tempt you.
3. Avoid local lockdowns
Local lockdowns are increasingly being used to deal with coronavirus clusters whilst limiting the economic fall out. This has ranged from reduced restaurant opening times to full shut downs, and has been adopted in various countries around the word. Cruise lines can avoid these restrictions by amending their itineraries to avoid specific areas, either by substituting an affected port of call or offering a relaxing day at sea, with restaurants, bars, lounges and entertainment programmes unaffected by local lockdown requirements ashore.
4. Travel off the beaten track
In recent years we've seen a trend in luxury cruising towards travelling off the beaten track. Expedition cruises take this to the extreme, with intrepid voyages to the world's most remote destinations. More traditional cruises lines are also adopting this approach, even in destinations that you might not consider to be remote. Ponant's new Corsica and Brittany itineraries, along with SeaDream's summer sailings amongst isolated Norwegian fjords, have been a response to coronavirus, with a focus on areas of natural beauty rather than cultural sites in more densely populated areas. Getting away from the crowds and embracing the great outdoors will be appealing in a post-coronavirus world, and a cruise can deliver this with ease.
5. Travel in a bubble
Cruise lines are working hard to ensure that each ship operates as a 'bubble', and they are uniquely positioned to do this. The way the ships are staffed is key; all cruise ship staff live aboard, so it's much easier to maintain a bubble, especially as a quarantine period for staff before they join the ship is now the norm.
The security that is required to board a ship also helps, with embarkation carefully monitored. It is impossible to simply wander in off the street, making it easier to closely monitor and maintain enhanced hygiene protocols.
6. All of your travel arrangements taken care of
Experiencing the destinations in which you are travelling is a very important part of cruising, but it's also reassuring to know that you're completely catered for on board. You needn't worry about researching the restaurant options of an entire city, having to travel for miles to get there, or wandering the streets looking for somewhere that hasn't reached its capacity. You can relax in the knowledge that you'll be completely looked after on board.
7. World-leading hygiene protocols
It's strange to think now, but for many businesses the introduction of a hand sanitising station has been an entirely new measure, whereas cruise lines have been building this into their hardware for years. With so much experience in containing viruses, cruise lines are better positioned to deal with this than most others: it's much easier to strengthen an existing framework than set one up from scratch.
8. Robust contingency planning
We understand that some travellers may be concerned by what took place during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, when ships were not allowed to disembark guests, or in some cases allowed to dock at all. It's often overlooked that the same type of quarantine was enforced in several hotels, although with less media attention.
To avoid this situation ever happening again, cruise lines are working to ensure that at least one of the ports of call on any given itinerary will always allow them into port, and help with quarantine/isolation and repatriation. If there is a positive case on board the aim will be to isolate and disembark that passenger as quickly as possible, with as little inconvenience to other guests as possible. As cruising is one of the most highly regulated sectors within travel, with stringent operational guidelines, the provisions in place to deal with a guest testing positive for Covid-19 are as robust as they can be and will match or surpass any other sector in travel.
9. An incredible ability to adapt
Hospitality in every form has had to change due to coronavirus. For some the changes won't be enough, whether it's a restaurant that is too small to operate social distancing, or a kitchen that is unable to change from buffet to à la carte service. For others, new positives will be found to not just cope with the changes necessary, but to improve on what came before. Whether this is a digital app to replace the gathering required for a muster drill, as introduced recently by Royal Caribbean, or more space for guests on board and dedicated table service as standard, cruise lines are already putting in measures to adapt and improve, and we look forward to seeing cruising come back even stronger than before.