If you’re someone living in Europe (the EU) that is interested in taking a cruise soon, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has released a set of health guidelines that will hopefully be accepted as standard from here on out. These new protocols were developed by the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (ECDC). While this is not an official set of guidelines that must be followed, the fact that three major organizations are involved in developing and distributing them adds to their credibility. The IMO wants these guidelines to be circulated and used as much as possible. When followed, these rules will hopefully allow many companies to sail safely again. Here’s what you can expect.
There are several rules that will directly impact guests, but some of the most important ones deal with behind-the-scenes aspects of the cruise experience. Cruise lines should be figuring out all of these details before embarking on any voyages. These guidelines are pretty basic, stating that cruise lines should ensure that all ports stopped at are able to deal with and treat COVID-19 cases and that the nearest port should be immediately sailed to if a COVID-19 case is confirmed. The guidelines also suggest cruise lines developing a set of protocols to deal with outbreaks, though it doesn’t give only one possible way of doing this.
One of the biggest aspects of these new guidelines is how they address physical distancing. As we all know, distancing is necessary to help minimize the transmission of coronavirus. The IMO protocols suggest enforcing physical distancing as much as possible, but they also note that there are spaces within ships that are incredibly difficult to properly distance in. To combat this, they suggest closing these areas. Think of the galley or small, crowded restaurants and buffets.
Other onboard changes
The guidelines suggest a number of additional changes that should be made onboard cruise ships to promote safety. Guests can expect “easy access to hand washing facilities” and hand sanitizer, and ships are recommended to develop new plans that allow for guests to be able to access hand washing facilities nearly anywhere on the ship. In terms of PPE and masks, these new guidelines do not make specific recommendations and instead ask cruise lines to consult with local laws and recommendations at the ports they are visiting. The guidelines also recommend that cruise lines pay special attention to ventilation, with frequent cleaning being one way of combating spread.
The guidelines are relatively in-depth, although they are not meant to supersede any local laws or recommendations. Instead, these guidelines are mainly meant to help lead cruise lines into developing health plans that accurately address all coronavirus-related concerns. If you’d like to read more about this, the entirety of the guidelines are accessible here.