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When will we be able to cruise again?

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There has been extensive press coverage of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office announcement that cruising is unsafe, and of the subsequent (and welcome) U-turn as regards river cruising.

At the same time, we have heard quite a number of comments along the lines of "it's time for the industry to get its act together and persuade government that common positive rules are needed".

In fact, the cruise industry has behaved in an exemplary fashion on this.

Whilst the announcement was unhelpful, and appeared antagonistic, at the heart of the matter the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (advised by the Department for Transport and Public Health England) and the cruise industry - not to mention the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States - are all singing from the same hymn sheet.

Cruise lines have voluntarily suspended operations whilst they collaborate to develop a comprehensive set of protocols to make cruising even safer (visit our Coronavirus Update page for information on specific cruise lines' resumption dates). This is not just about what they are doing on the ships - although that is obviously important. Everyone knows that the cruise lines stand head and shoulders above other hospitality venues in terms of sanitation, and they are building on this platform to create an even safer and healthier environment.

Regent Seven Seas Navigator in the Caribbean

They have gone further though, pulling together all the stakeholders, including provisioning companies, ports, airports, shore excursion providers, and even governments. This is not a process to be rushed: the cruise lines, more than any government agency, are totally committed to getting this right.

CLIA (the Cruise Lines International Association) has been a key partner in creating the EU Healthy Gateways document, which makes fascinating reading, and indicates an extraordinary level of serious and detailed discussion.

Furthermore, Blue Ribbon panels have been set up across the industry by the big players. 'Blue Ribbon panel' has a specific meaning. It is 'a group of exceptional people appointed to investigate, study or analyse a given question'. The cruise lines are pulling in extraordinary big hitters from outside the cruise industry: academics, public health experts, epidemiologists, engineers and more, from both the public and the private sector. The humility is extraordinary, the willingness to learn exemplary, and the collaboration admirable. The aim is to create open source information, and there is no appetite to compete on safety.

Windstar Cruises - Star Legend in Alaska

In the attempt to deal with the effects of this pandemic, we have seen governments around the world make and change decisions on a daily basis. We have seen interpretations of 'the facts' diverge in opposite directions, choices made which in retrospect seemed unwise, and headline-grabbing announcements whose lack of detail results in confusion and frustration.

In contrast, the cruise lines are deliberately not jumping the gun. These are serious multi-billion dollar global companies, and they are investing heavily to get this absolutely right. Wouldn't it be great to see the governments of the world do the same?

Once the bare bones are approved, the guidelines will be adopted by the industry body CLIA and become a requirement for all member cruise lines. Then the cruise lines will get to work their magic. Their extraordinary experience of logistics will enable them to work within the guidelines to recreate the sort of cruising experience we all know and love. Innovation, change, constant improvement: this is meat and drink to them.

Scenic Eclipse in Valletta, Malta

In short, our message is clear: book with confidence. The cruise lines will not resume service until they are ready to do so safely.

Edwina Lonsdale
Meet the author

Edwina Lonsdale is Managing Director and, together with husband Matthew, owner of Mundy Cruising.

More about Edwina
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