Although it is great to see that cruising is slowly but surely coming back, especially in Europe. But what is it like? Is it good old fun and the great atmosphere that we know from before? Or, is cruising with the new protocols just a poor substandard replacement for what we know and love.
We look at what happens onboard European Cruise ships during Pandemic times. This information comes from Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises, Hapag Lloyd, and TUI cruises.
Embarkation Day Might Actually be Better
We all know that embarkation day is a hectic day for everyone. Fellow guests are grumpy from waiting in line, the crew looks tired from turning the ship around, and you can’t find the baggage drop off area anywhere.
Well, it seems these are things from the past. With an online airline-style check-in and dedicated boarding times, everyone arrives staggered, and there are no crowds to be found anymore. You are required to fill in a health declaration online and not like previous on some cruises, at the pier-side or during check-in.
Once you arrive at the port, you are also swab tested, and the test results come back while you wait, usually within one hour or less. Once given the all-clear, you can board the vessel. From arriving in the port to getting onboard takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
In your cabin, you get instructions on the cleaning of the cabin and instructions on how to behave and what to do. You also get masks that you can use around the ship if you didn’t bring your own.
Getting Around the Ship
While getting around the ship is not the same, you do get used to it reasonably soon. Of course, it’s strange to see passengers wearing masks and crew wearing protective gear. However, after a day or so, you don’t notice that anymore. What you do notice is the sticker on your door that tells you when your cabin was last sanitized.
As for the public areas, bars, and restaurants, they are open, and yes, wearing a mask is mandatory if you are inside the ship, except when sitting down for a drink in a bar or for a meal. Nightclubs are not open. Outside the ship, you don’t have to wear a mask on the open decks, unless social distancing is not possible.
Smaller venues do have signage and crew standing by to make sure that only the maximum allowed amount of people is inside at any one time.
Most Spa’s are open except for the Sauna’s, steam rooms, and Turkish baths for apparent reasons. Most treatments are ongoing as usual. Gyms are open as well; we have reports that the treadmills and exercise bikes are not operational on Costa Cruises while on MSC cruise and TUI they are.
Let’s be honest. We go cruising to eat. Well, most of us do in any case. And here, nothing much has changed except some procedures from the ship itself. You will need to bring your smartphone to the restaurant to look up the menu as there are no more paper menus. It’s relatively easy as you just scan the QR code on the table.
There is no more buffet for breakfast or lunch; however, cooking stations with ready-cooked food are plentiful. You will have to sit down for Breakfast and Lunch, as the food will be brought to the table. Dinner is not in two allotted dinner times anymore, but you now get a reasonably flexible allotted dinner slot. The dining room stays open for longer now as well.
As for going ashore, you can’t go ashore by yourself. You have to take a shore excursion organized by the ship. And although it is one area where all European cruises have significantly dropped their prices, you still pay to get off a ship, which is questionable but understandable. Also, mandatory testing is in place for everyone if they go for a shore excursion.
So is it better or worse?
At the end of the day, no cruising is not the same as we know from before. However, that is not to say that it cannot be an enjoyable experience.
Once you get used to the mask (which most of us are anyway by now), you quickly get into a rhythm. And soon enough, you’ll have your favorite waiter, bring your favorite cocktail, in your favorite bar.
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