Building back better, or just coming back, in a staggered and responsible way is the right way to go for the cruise industry and cruise companies are firmly focused on all Covid-related prevention and reaction protocols to ensure the path to normality is a short and sustained one, last week’s Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum 2021 heard.
There are two aspects to the issue, delegates noted: Enforcing, supervising and upholding the current protocols for passengers, crew and destinations; and standardization and uniformity of such protocols.
According to MSC Cruises Chief Executive Gianni Onorato, the passenger locator form, for example, has not been fully adopted on a pan-European level in equal measures and there are no clear guidelines on its use.
“Every time we arrive at a different country we are asked for the form. As long as uniformity is not properly achieved between different countries, we may face unnecessary issues for our guests, and this may make cruises uncompetitive compared to other forms of tourism,” he said. “Protocols are working but we need greater uniformity.”
This lack of uniformity also allows operators to enforce stricter precautionary measures, such as Norwegian Cruise Line, which is one of the companies that have decided to allow only fully vaccinated passengers and crews on board their vessels, according to Kevin Bubolz, managing director for Europe. He participated in PSTF 2021 in a panel discussion focusing on the impact of the new health protocols on shore excursions and destination management. Adam Sharp, director of international destination development at Royal Caribbean Group, confirmed that his company is also cooperating with NCL to standardize health protocols for the US market.
The return to normality may be agonizingly slow, however this is also due to the very regimented protocols that cruise sector stakeholders decided to impose on their operations in order to bulwark themselves against the risk of Covid-19, the forum heard.
“We were the first to mandate 100% testing for all passengers and crew, setting the standards for other industries, and we are optimistic that we will achieve a return to pre-Covid levels by 2022-2023,” said Pierfrancesco Vago, global chairman of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and executive chairman at MSC Cruises.