Jeri Clausing
Jeri Clausing

Like the rest of the travel industry, river cruise companies have spent much of the Covid-19 travel shutdown assessing not only when they might be able to resume sailing, but what their operations will look like.

And like everything else, post-pandemic river sailings promise to be different.

From smaller group tours to assigned dining room seating and crew etiquette, every aspect of operations is being assessed.

"We have been scrupulous in our process to consider every moment that may present an unnecessary concern," Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection CEO Ellen Bettridge said this week in unveiling her line's updated protocols, which besides health screenings and new cleaning protocols include the removal from public use of things like magazines, brochures and self-service candy jars or snacks.

Additionally, Uniworld said disinfectant wipes will be available throughout the ship, including at coffee stations and in public restrooms. Onboard payments will be processed using a contactless method and credit card machines will be wiped cleaned after each pin entry. All restaurant dining will have assigned seating, with guests at the same table, with the same people, each day. Items that are usually shared, like bread and butter, will now be served to each person individually. And gloves, face masks and bottles of hand sanitizer will be readily available for all guests.

Domestically, American Queen Steamboat Co. President and CEO John Waggoner said their new procedures include preboarding screenings and temperature checks, ionizer systems to purify cabins on a daily basis, thermal imaging that can scan and log the temperatures of guests every time they swipe their cards to get on and off the boat, elevated housekeeping protocols, limiting the number of guests dining or watching shows at one time and a lot of more hand-washing stations around the boat.

At Avalon Waterways, managing director Pam Hoffee said they have created an Avalon Assurance task force "to not only determine when we should return to the world's waterways, but what the experience will look like for our travelers.

"We are collaborating with industry-wide task forces, reviewing information with the European Union, to determine when river cruising can begin again as borders start to reopen."

Like other lines, Amadeus River Cruises is assessing all aspects of operations and will be doing things like adding more hand sanitizer dispensers , including in cabins, and rethinking things like whether and how to offer buffet-style food in addition to their regular menu service, said Marcus Leskovar, executive vice president of Amadeus.

But he said he expects most changes will be more operational, behind the scenes.

"We don't want to be too intrusive to the passengers and make everyone feel like they are in a hospital," he said. "We are trying not to take away too much of the river cruise experience."

What will change is the way we clean the cabins, the way we clean and wash laundry," he added. "There are going to be different detergents that we use.  We will have a more thorough protocol in cleaning and wiping."

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