Cruising after coronavirus is sure to look and feel different than pre-pandemic cruise vacations, and social distancing is in many cruise lines’ return-to-service plans. But when cruise ships routinely carry thousands of passengers and crew members, how can you social distance effectively?
Social Distancing and Coronavirus
A key part of slowing the spread of coronavirus and other highly communicable diseases is social distancing and minimizing the person-to-person contact that can so easily transfer viruses via touch or respiratory droplets.
Staying at least six feet (two meters) away from another person can reduce the risk of spreading infections, even between people who are showing no symptoms and may not realize they could be infectious.
Many businesses, public buildings, and entertainment venues have made accommodations for social distancing. This often includes limiting or canceling large gatherings, limiting visitor capacity, spreading out seating, positioning markers on floors to show proper distances, making aisles and pathways one-way, and hanging signage to remind guests about distancing guidelines. Cruise lines are likely to make many of the same changes to encourage passengers to properly social distance.
Social Distancing on a Cruise
Cruise ships are highly likely to use many of the same strategies to encourage greater social distancing between passengers. While each cruise line will decide on which policies are best for its ships, crew members, and guests, the types of social distancing adaptations that are most likely include:
- Limiting initial overall passenger capacity by closing cabins or decks
- Limiting seating in lounges and for shows, possibly adding extra showtimes
- Using technology to replace in-person safety drills to minimize crowds
- Enforcing check-in appointments and embarkation windows
- Temporarily eliminating or changing crowded activities, such as deck parties
- Signage, floor markers, and other reminders to promote social distancing
Every passenger can do even more to follow safe social distancing guidelines. For example, following embarkation and debarkation appointments and other reservations, such as reservations for onboard shows or activities, can help eliminate the biggest crowds.
Passengers should consider using in-cabin technology as much as possible to minimize person-to-person contact. The newest ships, for instance, are equipped for passengers to book shore tours, make spa appointments, and arrange restaurant reservations right from their stateroom televisions or onboard apps.
It is also possible to browse the photo gallery and read the daily activities calendar right in each stateroom, without needing to bustle through crowds or handle public touchscreens or materials.
Of course, no cruise traveler wants to stay in their stateroom for their entire vacation. It is still possible, however, to maintain safe social distancing even while enjoying all that a cruise ship has to offer.
When going to shows and performances, be sure to arrive early and choose seats further away from entrances, bars, or aisles where more people will be nearby. Leave an extra seat or two empty between parties, and be sure to have visited the restroom or picked up drinks at the bar before the show begins so there is no need to be moving through crowds.
Use similar techniques for activities such as dance lessons, craft projects, and trivia contests. Keep a polite distance between parties, and if possible, make up teams with family members and friends rather than associating in close physical space with strangers.
Obey all lines and social distancing markers throughout the ship, and seek out more private, secluded spaces whenever possible. This is especially easy to do for sunbathing or strolling around the deck, and can lead to fun discoveries of interesting spots on board that might not otherwise be noticed.
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For dining, choose less popular dining times or make reservations at restaurants when they are naturally less crowded, such as earlier in the evening. This will allow for better spacing between tables and will help minimize crowds coming and going from different restaurants or dining venues. Using room service more for a private meal in the cabin is another option sure to abide by social distance guidelines.
When in port, be mindful of long lines for leaving or reboarding the ship, and get tender tickets or other appointment times if necessary. Choosing tours that leave earlier or later in the day is another way to avoid larger crowds and still enjoy all the fun and sights of the port of call.
Above all, it is crucial to be patient. There will undoubtedly be lines and longer wait times as shipboard operations adapt to social distancing and other health and safety protocols. Rather than cause a disturbance or get agitated at a brief delay, which could cause even more problems with security officers, take deep breaths, stay calm, and stay safe aboard the ship.
When Social Distancing Isn’t Possible
There will be times when social distancing isn’t possible or practical on cruise ships. At those times, be aware of any guidelines such as wearing masks or cancellations of events or activities.
Take care not to idly touch surfaces, use tissues when touching door handles, and practice thorough, frequent hand washing to eliminate germs and minimize the spread of any contamination. Cruise lines are continually adjusting protocols to the newest recommendations and guidelines for the health and safety of their cruise members and passengers.
As more is discovered about different coronaviruses and similar diseases, those recommendations and guidelines are sure to change, and the guidelines for one cruise may not be the same as the guidelines for another cruise just a few weeks later. Understanding how to practice safe social distancing on a cruise ship can help passengers stay healthy no matter when, where, or how they set sail.