How are Cruise Lines Adapting to COVID-19 in 2021?

How are Cruise Lines Adapting to COVID-19?

As the cruise industry begins to reopen, cruise lines now face the challenge of adapting their processes to fit our new reality. With health and hygiene at the forefront of these new processes, how are cruise lines offering passengers a holiday feel while ensuring their safety?

Port & embarkation

For cruisegoers, the holiday experience begins from the moment they enter the terminal prior to boarding. That’s why the embarking process must be made as seamless as possible while incorporating a holiday feel. However, from vaccination passports and negative COVID-19 tests to travel insurance and health questionnaires, passengers are now faced with more paperwork than ever before.

Staggered boarding times and the introduction of new technologies and processes are just some of the ways cruise lines are handling this new challenge. Royal Caribbean has developed a new app to assist their passengers with embarkation. The Royal Caribbean International app gives passengers the ability to scan their passport, take their security photo and select their arrival slot ahead of time for a frictionless boarding process. This has reportedly cut down check in times to just 10 minutes.

The muster drill made simple

Once a lengthy chore, the muster drill has undergone a digital transformation. This has made the process more efficient for guests and staff alike. Royal Caribbean’s Muster 2.0 programme recently debuted on their 2021 cruises. This technology means guests can complete the drill in their own time via the Royal Caribbean app or stateroom TV. Then, before departing, guests must visit their assembly station to verify with crew that they have seen the video. On MSC Cruises, there is a similar procedure in place. Here, guests phone an automated number after watching the video for confirmation. Then, they visit their muster station to have their cruise card scanned.

Onboard tracing systems

While it is vital to monitor guest behaviour to prevent outbreaks, this must be done so without compromising guest experience. Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean have implemented camera enhancements on board that allow existing surveillance to detect passenger activity using facial recognition technology. This works by utilising security photos taken prior to boarding.

Another way cruise lines have adapted for tracking and tracing their passengers includes wearables, such as Carnival Corporation’s OceanMedallion. These small metal discs can be worn around the wrist, as a necklace, or carried in a pocket or bag. They can be used to open the guest’s cabin door, check in and out and make onboard purchases. In 2021, these non-intrusive wearables are also being used for contact tracing.

Carnival Cruises’s wearable OceanMedallion is being used for contact tracing

Offshore excursions

One of the biggest reasons people cruise is to visit new locations, and new measures mean passengers can still enjoy offshore excursions. Many cruise lines, including P&O Cruises, are exclusively offering “staycation” cruises. They have also introduced ‘bubble tours’, where passengers may only travel ashore within a range of organised and vetted shore experiences. On Carnival Cruises, unvaccinated guests face limitations for offshore excursions, while vaccinated guests can explore the ports freely. Carnival Cruises itineraries also include visits to their private islands Half Moon Cay and Princess Cays. Once there, passengers can enjoy an unlimited, worry-free exploration.



Bring your guest experience to the next level at Cruise Ship Hospitality Expo (CSH). CSH brings together the entire cruise hospitality sector on 28 – 29 October 2021 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. Register for free to refresh your knowledge, source suppliers for your next project, and connect with representatives from world-leading cruise lines.

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