The past year has been a bit of a whirlwind for the cruise industry. Hope for a return to service came and went with the different waves of the pandemic. Some cruise lines closed down while others found new ways to innovate and survive. Luckily, things are finally starting to calm down and return to normal with the distribution of vaccines and general downward trend of cases. However, that doesn’t mean that cruise lines can just open up their doors and get back to business. There are still a number of steps they need to take before things can truly be back to normal.
Adherence to CDC rules
The biggest hurdle that cruise lines are going to face in the next couple of months is adherence to CDC rules and general protocol regarding safe cruising. They will need to choose one of two paths: mass vaccination for guests and crew or trial cruises. Most cruise lines were already planning on enforcing vaccination-related rules, so it’s very unlikely trial cruises will be happening. Regardless, reaching the CDC-mandated level of vaccination (98% for crew and 95% for guests) won’t be an easy task. We already saw cruise lines starting the vaccination process last month. Expect to see more of that going forward.
Prepping ships for travel
Another key component in starting back into business is prepping the actual ships for travel. Many cruise ships have been laid up for multiple months now. This means that they are being maintained so that their conditions don’t worsen, but not maintained enough that they are immediately ready to cruise. Crews will need to get into ships and check everything to make sure that it is in good shape, and that times a lot of time. The CEO of Norwegian estimated that the prep process for a large cruise ship generally takes about 90 days of hard work.
Rehiring crew members
The cruise industry was hit hard during the pandemic, and thousands of employees were either furloughed or laid off. This was done so that cruise lines wouldn’t go bankrupt, but they now face a new dilemma. How do they quickly get back into service without the necessary workforce needed? Cruise lines are now starting the process of rehiring the positions that need to be filled. Norwegian is reportedly trying to fill over 17,000 positions, and other cruise lines are doing the same. Some of these positions will be filled by employees that were previously taken off the payroll; some will need to be new hires.
It’s not an easy process, but cruise lines are scrambling to get back to sailing as quickly as possible. The tides are turning in the industry’s favor at this point, and time is of the essence. If things go well and the process goes smoothly, we could see a full return to cruising faster than most thought.