New Era of Cruising: What You Need to Know Before You Sail in the Age of COVID

Are you taking a cruise soon or thinking about it? We’ve put together some important things to consider and tips for cruising in this new era.

The definition of safe travel has been yo-yoing from month to month due to the changing state of the pandemic. Despite that, people keep flooding airports and highways; still more impressively, people keep lining up to take cruises.

It’s impressive that people are taking cruises, because it shows that they remember cruising as what it was, not what it is.

Cruises are back, but because of the changing state of travel, you should regularly check the CDC website and travel.state.gov for updates, global advisories, and country-by-country instructions.

COVID has actually given cruise lines the opportunity to review everything about their ships and make not just short-term accommodations for COVID, but longer-term structural changes that will help cruise lines cope with future crises in whatever form they may take.

If you take a cruise in these chaotic times, here are some tips for helping it go smoothly:

Get vaccinated and wear a mask

An overwhelming majority of medical experts are recommending that people get vaccinated. A vaccine will also help you get into many foreign countries.

The CDC has given cruises a level-3 warning, saying that “people who are not fully vaccinated [should] avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide.”

Maybe you won’t be required to wear a mask when you’re on deck, breathing the salt air; still, you should add some masks to your packing list.

Also read: Buying Travel Insurance During a Pandemic

Note the vaccination rules for your particular ship

There are several layers of rules and recommendations for cruising while vaccinated: The CDC recommendations; the rules of any country you may be visiting; and your cruise line’s rules.

The CDC says it’s okay for cruises to sail in U.S. waters if they complete “trial” cruises or meet vaccination thresholds. (You can find an infographic on the CDC’s phased approach to allowing ships to sail again on the CDC website).

In addition, most cruise lines are requiring proof of vaccination for passengers and crew.

If you’re among the vaccinated, the CDC still recommends that you:

  • Get tested three to five days after their trip
  • Isolate if you have a positive test
  • Self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days

This is relatively straightforward, but it takes a sharp turn when shore excursions are factored in. For instance, Viking is only allowing passengers to take Viking-run shore excursions. Even if you’re vaccinated, you can’t explore on your own hook.

If you’re unvaccinated, anticipate a regular testing regimen, including onshore tests before being allowed to go anywhere.

Onboard, unvaccinated travelers should expect to be segregated from vaccinated cruisers in public areas like gyms and dining rooms. There may even be unvaccinated-only shows, or specific times when unvaccinated guests can eat or work out, and all of this may be done on a ticket or wristband basis.

After cruising, the CDC recommends that unvaccinated travelers:

  • Get tested three to five days after their trip
  • Isolate themselves if they have a positive test
  • Self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days
  • Self-quarantine for 7 days
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days

Be aware of changes on board

As mentioned earlier, the cruise experience has changed quite a bit – and arguably for the better. Here are some of the changes you can expect.

Bye-bye buffet

Make no mistake – the all-you-can-eat aspect of many cruise meals has not gone away. What’s departed is the serve-yourself aspect, which is not so bad. Sharing utensils is a health risk, and it’s just swankier when someone else serves you your plate.

Fewer touchpoints

It’s tricky: cruise ships want to give passengers the feel of a personalized, high-touch experience without actually touching them.

In other words, cruise ships are looking for points where they can provide personal service without true face-to-face interaction. For now, this translates into QR codes for accessing restaurant menus and facial-recognition technology being used to ID passengers as they come onboard or leave for excursions.

Increased sanitation

Get used to staff wiping down surfaces like handrails multiple times daily, and disinfecting public areas like lobbies, restaurants, clubs, and gyms on a regular basis.

While the most stringent measures will be reserved for inside spaces, you can look forward to additional attention to sanitation at pools, bars, and other highly frequented outdoor areas.

Mitigation measures, just like on shore

If you thought you could escape social distancing and mask mandates by going on a cruise, sorry. They’re a cruise thing, too.

Similarly, expect hand-sanitizer stations at every turn.

The CDC is keeping track of sanitation protocols each cruise line is taking, and has a list of which ships have been cleared to sail.

New equipment

Several cruise lines have installed super air purifiers that can automatically filter out bacteria and viruses in enclosed spaces. This is in addition to backpack-style disinfecting foggers and other enhanced cleaning and sanitizing equipment.

Also read: Why You Still Need Travel Insurance, Even with Flexible Cancellation Policies

Here are some other things to keep in mind as you look toward cruising again:

Realize that your cruise may not cruise

For many cruise lines and their passengers, this is the new reality: “If a certain threshold level of COVID-19 is detected onboard the ship during your voyage, the voyage will end immediately, the ship will return to the port of embarkation, and your subsequent travel, including your return home, may be restricted or delayed.”

In other words, your cruise is subject at any time to becoming a boat trip back to the dock. Do not pass go, do not grab an extra piece of cheesecake from the dessert cart.

Learn about Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance

Realize that your cruise to A may go to B

COVID outbreaks at destinations may force itinerary changes – so if you’re expecting a cruise to Dominica, don’t be surprised if you wind up in Anguilla.

This is not an optimal situation, but it could be worse. Because shore excursions are tightly controlled, you may not have been going ashore anyway – and what’s the difference if you don’t go ashore in Anguilla or you don’t go ashore in Dominica?

Remember that it’s different overseas

The rules are different for cruises sailing out of foreign ports. People looking to take Asian, European, Mediterranean, or Polynesian cruises may have to follow different protocols, including proof of vaccination.

Check with your travel advisor and follow the country updates on travel.state.gov for the latest information.

Also read: Countries that Require Travel Insurance

Expect sticker shock

Priced a cruise lately? Expect to pay more. So many people want to cruise, and the rate of ships coming back on line is so slow by comparison, that demand is far outstripping supply.

When that happens anywhere else in a market economy, prices rise. The same thing is happening with cruises.

The one caveat is that if a cruise experiences last-minute cancellations or is not full for some crazy reason, you might be able to score a deal.

As is the case everywhere else in travel, if you have a bag packed and a limited-time special shows up on the interweb, the fates may smile upon you.

Also read: The Ultimate Cruise Packing List

Don’t forget about hurricanes

Turns out that in addition to COVID there’s something else to worry about with cruises: hurricanes.

The intensity, frequency, and duration of hurricanes, especially the strongest hurricanes, have all increased in the last few decades. Hurricane season is starting earlier and ending later.

The intensity, frequency, and duration of hurricanes, especially the strongest hurricanes, have all increased in the last few decades.

If you don’t want the threat of a hurricane messing with your cruise, avoid Caribbean cruises from June through December; if you insist on taking a cruise during that time, focus on the southern Caribbean, where statistics show there are fewer severe hurricanes.

Also read: All About Hurricane Travel Insurance

Choose travel insurance

Travel insurance for a cruise was always a good idea. Now the important parts of travel insurance for a cruise are even more important. They include:

COVID Coverage

Travel insurance plans from Generali provide coverage if you, a family member, or a traveling companion become ill with COVID-19 and plan requirements are met. Learn more

If I buy a travel insurance plan now, how can it help if COVID-19 affects my trip?

If you, a family member or a traveling companion are diagnosed with COVID-19 before or during your trip, and meet the requirements for coverage due to sickness, you can be covered for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Travel Delay, Medical & Dental, and Emergency Assistance & Transportation, in addition to our 24/7 Emergency Assistance services. You can also be covered for additional lodging expenses and extension of your travel insurance plan if you are required to isolate at your destination and your return is delayed.

Trip Cancellation and Interruption

You can’t make the cruise because you get COVID. An outbreak forces the ship back to port and you need to isolate because you’re sick. A family member back home falls ill and is hospitalized.

So many scenarios, so plausible. These days, cruising with 100% reimbursement for a covered trip cancellation and 150% for a covered trip interruption (like the Generali Preferred plan) is just table stakes. And that’s just considering the pandemic – Generali plans can provide coverage for covered expenses or losses for around 20 different types of events that could cause you to cancel or interrupt your travel plans.    

Also read: How Travel Insurance Can Help with Trip Cancellation

Emergency Medical

Raging pandemic … enough said.

The more emergency medical insurance you can buy (Generali’s Premium plan has $250,000), the more peace of mind you’ll have on your cruise.

Also, remember that most private insurance at best will consider medical expenses incurred on a cruise to be out-of-network; at worst, they won’t be covered. This goes for Medicare, too.

Also read: Why You Might Need to Buy Medical Coverage Before You Travel

Emergency Medical Evacuation

See above. This is another instance where you’ll want to max out on the coverage and Generali offers $1,000,000 with the Premium plan. Learn more

Baggage Loss/Delay

When you’re talking pandemics and lives and so forth baggage seems pretty insignificant. But baggage is significant, and it can easily get lost in all the pandemonium surrounding a suspended cruise.

For that reason, maxing out your baggage benefit is a good idea, too.

Also read: How to Keep Your Bags and Valuables Safe While Traveling

Travel Assistance

Suppose your cruise to somewhere just became a cruise to nowhere. There are arrangements to rearrange, people to notify, hotels to book, and so forth.

Generali’s Travel assistance services can help with all of that – and it’s included with every Generali travel-insurance plan. Talk about a nice-to-have – this is it.

Cruises are back, but things change fast in this all-important segment of the travel universe. That’s why it is so important to help protect your cruise with travel insurance from Generali Global Assistance.

Our plans cover what you value most. Get a quote today and see for yourself.

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