Current and potential cruise passengers are increasingly willing to adopt to the protocols and measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19, industry stakeholders said this week at the Seatrade Cruise Virtual conference.
Bernhard Stacher, vice president of hotel operations at MSC Cruises, which launched the first big-ship cruising this summer, from Italy in August, said that in the beginning, guests questioned its policy of only being able to disembark in port on official cruise line shore excursions. Now, he said, with other lines are doing the same thing, they appreciate it.
"The people feel very comfortable and safe, and the communities we go into also feel safe," he said. "It's a two-way street."
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He said that the destinations told him that if they came and allowed thousands of people off in a place like Malta, "then you go, and we have to deal with the consequences."
MSC creates a controlled excursion environment, testing its tour guides and drivers and going to specific places at prearranged times.
"Then we go back, and we feel safe and they feel safe," he said. "It's a big success story."
Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of Cruise Critic, said the site had surveyed its readers recently and that 71% said they would still cruise if the ship-sponsored excursions were a requirement.
"That speaks volumes to how much they miss cruising," she said. "It speaks to the mindset that they just want to get out there and do it again."
McDaniel said there has been a general progression among readers in terms of protocol acceptance. In March, Cruise Critic readers said "no way" when it came to the idea of cruising with masks and social distancing protocols. Now, she said, they're prepared to do it because "they're used to it in their day-to-day lives."
"It's something that's become routine and habit and if it means they can get back on cruise ships, they're ready to do it," she said.
Josh Leibowitz, president of Seabourn, said that the luxury line's guests have also indicated they are willing to follow protocols if it means they can cruise.
"They're asking us to develop a set of protocols, and we're adopting the industry protocols, to put in place an environment where people can feel comfortable to explore the world again," he said.
McDaniel said that readers who have been on the ships in Europe have posted positive reviews and photos that indicate they are able to have many of the typical cruise experiences despite the protocols in place.
"The balance of fun and safety is really palpable," she said. "You see people doing normal cruise activities, whether it's sitting poolside or dining or going on a shore excursion. They're having a great time doing them but still in a safe environment."