The coronavirus has undoubtedly disrupted our life and impacted several industries. The once untouchable gigantic cruise industry has been among the most impacted, labeled as a breeding ground for the virus, many cruise ships were forced to cancel their scheduled voyages for the rest of 2020 and through early 2021 which left many crew members jobless. However, with the virus slowly getting under control resulting in restrictions being eased, some cruise lines have started sailing again mainly in European waters. Therefore, crew members are joining back the cruise ships to resume work again.
It’s a fact that life (in general) on board will no longer be the same as it was prior to Covid-19. To get an idea of what’s happening onboard, I’ve gone through several articles and have interviewed my friend who’s currently working on the MSC Grandiosa, which was one of the first ships to resume sailing post lockdown.
Q: Has the work environment onboard changed post-Corona lockdown?
A: Work on board is the same as before but new protocols have been implemented(covid prevention protocols) and we have to follow strict compulsory measures. Guests are trained about the new covid protocol onboard in order to enjoy their cruise with minimal risk of contamination.
Q: What sanitary measures are being taken by the ship to ensure the safety of the crew and guests?
A: Crew members are having single cabins wherever possible and upon availability. Compulsory swab tests are being performed prior to embarkation for both crew and guests. Crew members also have to submit a negative covid-19 test to the company test before boarding the flight. Families are treated like social bubbles. Social distancing in public areas and crew areas are being strictly monitored. Sanitizer stands are placed all over the ship. Masks are compulsory and staffs wear gloves. There is minimum guest and crew contact via new technologies services. Additionally, crew members have daily temperature checks. When it comes to excursion, guests and crew from one ship does not mingle with outside tour guides and peoples.
Q: Do you have to quarantine before joining the ship and after finishing your contract?
5A: Yes, Crew members are quarantined for a minimum of 2-3 weeks before commencing duty.
Q: Has the clientele changed?
A: The ship is not operating to its full capacity, so we have fewer guests onboard. Demographics wise, we have a younger clientele (mainly European) before the guests were mainly elderly people
Q: Are you allowed to go ashore?
Q: What if a crew member is suspected to carry the virus?
A: I was contact-traced and put in isolation in a single cabin for 10 days. I had to undergo swab tests several times a day. Meals were being delivered to my cabin and I was not allowed to roam around. The company takes good care of you in this situation.
No shore leaves and additional rules and regulations in new contracts
Previous contracts already had a long list of rigid rules, regulations, and protocols, and now the coronavirus has just added a new layer to it. As you’ve read above, shore leaves are not allowed for the entire contract (traveling the world is no longer a source of motivation to work on a cruise ship). Royal Caribbean cruises has established a 15 Steps protocol that crew members need to follow before re-joining the cruise. Wearing Protective equipment (masks, gloves.) will be compulsory and crew members have to undergo daily temperature checks. Also, if you’ve been contact traced or suspected to have covid, the cruise ship will isolate you for 10+days and will have to go undergo swab tests. With social distancing, Crew bars have limited opening hours, and fewer parties are organized(or no parties at all). Furthermore, You will have to quarantine again once your contract ends both on the cruise and when you reach your home country.
The good is news is shorter contracts (depending on the cruise line), my friend from MSc has signed for a 5-month contract when previously her contracts were 9 months long. Besides, some of the new restrictions might be softened not immediately though, but once the pandemic gets fully under control. If you would like to add something please feel free to do so in the comment and for brave seafarers going back on cruises, Be safe and happy sailing!