How will cruising change after COVID19?


Steph - Cruise with Amber

How will the cruise industry change after COVID 19? What’s the future of cruising? To say there’s been some challenges in the cruise industry over the past few months is a bit of an understatement. But the cruise industry is a resilient one and has bounced back from numerous challenges before.

However, some commentators have pointed out that the most recent challenges presented by COVID-19 are unprecedented. It has resulted in a total cessation of cruise operations on a global scale. Others have even gone so far as to exclaim (somewhat over-dramatically) that this could possibly lead to the downfall of the cruise industry altogether.

“Cruise passengers are a loyal and resilient bunch with an insatiable craving for holidays at sea….Both cruise lines and cruise passengers are like coiled springs at the moment – waiting for that green light to get back to cruising.”

But cruise passengers are a loyal and resilient bunch with an insatiable craving for holidays at sea. We’re not likely to turn our backs on the ships and cruise lines we love so dearly. You’ll know this if you’ve recently spent any time scrolling through the social media accounts for various cruise bloggers. You’ll see legions of frustrated cruisers recreating previous on board experiences at home.

Cruise fans are reliving previous cruises, and consoling each other when the embarkation date of a cancelled cruise arrives… and passes. This is a loyal group of customers who are itching to get back on ship. Both cruise lines and cruise passengers are like coiled springs at the moment – waiting for that green light to get back to cruising.

Will ship interiors be designed to allow for greater social distancing?

Now i’m, not naive to think that *nothing* will have changed when we (finally) get back on board. The cruise industry has already responded to some of the lessons learned from recent challenges – and will continue to do so.

What might change?

I’ve followed media reports, guidance from bodies such as the WHO and CDC and policy releases from cruise lines over the past few weeks. At the time of writing, new updates continue to be released.  We are still in lock down. We may not cruise again this year. A lot remains uncertain. What is certain is that cruise passengers WILL be back.   These are my thoughts on how the cruise holiday may chance from a passenger experience point of view in the short term and how these chances might further evolve over the long-term.

It is important to note that these are only my thoughts and opinions and do not represent any confirmed changes by the cruise industry. 

Immediate Changes

  • Enhanced health screening procedures before boarding the ship and on return to the ship at each port of call
  • The cessation of self-serve options for food on board (such as the buffet)
  • A requirement for enhanced travel insurance
  • More stringent adherence to embarkation and disembarkation times to limit the number of passengers congregating together.

Medium-term changes

  • Restrictions the number of cabin options available (for example allowing passengers to book exterior cabins only).
  • Limited availability from in 2021 due to a combination of increased demand from passengers booking cruises to use up their future cruise credit (FCC) from cancelled cruises and cruise lines purposely leaving some cabins empty to enable greater social distancing . 
  • A  low- to zero-contact embarkation process with a greater emphasis on online check in elements ( such as credit/debit card registration) 
  • Greater use of wearable tech such as Princess Cruises ‘Ocean Medallion’ and Virgin Voyages  ‘The Band’
  • Greater encouragement of guests to wash hands more frequently whilst on board
  • A move to smaller group activities (such as on board events, port tours and excursions)
  • Possible requirements for reporting health status of passengers before ships are accepted into port or passengers are allowed to disembark  
  • More frequent changes of itineraries if ships are turned away due to any passenger illness. 
  • New procedures for muster to allow for greater social distancing
  • An possible end to the traditional ‘Galley tour’ or ‘behind the scenes tour’ on ship

Longer term implications – Changes to the design of new ships:

  • A possible move back to smaller ships
  • A possible end to interior cabins
  • The design of public areas (such as bars, dining, and on board theatres) to allow for more social distancing
  • Upgrading of ships where appropriate and cost effective to enable greater use of wearable technology to prevent as much contact through day to day transactions; such as apps and wearable technology to order drinks and food, or to open cabin doors etc.
    More hand-washing facilities throughout the ship
    Enhancements to medical centre facilities on board.
Virgin Voyages Scarlet Lady
What lies ahead - it may be hard to predict but cruise lines can count on passenger loyalty

What do other cruisers think?

I asked a group of experienced cruisers (with with an impressive combined cruise travel experience of almost 2,500 nights at sea!) for their thoughts on what they think the recent challenges mean for the future of cruising and in what ways it might might change their future cruising habits. 

How do you think recent challenges due to COVD19 will impact the future of cruising? Will the recent challenges affect your own cruising habits or choices?

It will be interesting to see how if affects the industry. Maybe a return to smaller ships? Maybe a more thorough temperature check and medical questionnaire prior to embarkation. Perhaps isolation if you are showing respiratory symptoms like for example a cold? It won’t change how I want to cruise – Lois (@N0CruiseControl) 

The current Coronavirus has been a challenge but certainly is not exclusive to the cruise industry as the whole world shares the same difficulties. Whilst we are certain cruising will be back, there could be some lines that may go to the wall as their finances may not cover the length of time their ships are in layup. Smaller ships may become more popular too – in the long term. However, the cruise industry as a whole we believe will return to a stable footing. It’s about how the cruise lines deal with the problems and how to overcome them that will determine their future. We certainly won’t be put off taking another cruise and with two cruises already booked for 2021, we cannot wait. – Anthony (@cruisemarsh):

It will certainly be a struggle to recover from Covid 19 as cruises, in particular, came in for harsh criticism. We will carry on cruising as soon as we are able. Once confidence returns, I am sure all will be well. Cruise passengers are a loyal bunch. – Sally (@sallydowling)

When travelling slowly but surely goes back to normal (or whatever post-COVID “normal” will develop) I think we’ll dip our toes back into cruising simply by sailing on smaller ships (like Maine Windjammer options) before we risk HUGE ships where sickness can spread like a wildfire more easily. Mikkel & Dan (@sometimeshome): 

A few lines may slow delivery of future-planned ships; some may unload less environmentally-friendly current ones. It will not alter cruising habits one bit. A safe, fun, glass-half-full outlook will not have been lost. Bob (@abroadinnocents)

I don’t think it will impact the future of cruising; cruises are far too popular these days and have a huge fan base. The only negativity I encounter regarding cruising comes from those who have never actually cruised!  I will certainly not change my own cruising habits.  – Debbie (@bollingerbabe1): 

It won’t stop me cruising, and I’ve always been pretty OCD with sanitiser and hygiene onboard, so I don’t think it will change much for us. –Wendy (@FortyTraveller)

I definitely feel the cruise lines will have to be making some changes to the way they handle things but I fully trust them to do what is right for everyone and I feel with a short period of time passengers will return in full force the way they once were. Nothing beats a cruise vacation in my opinion and once a guest experiences a cruise they will be back.  The challenges faced by the cruise industry right now will not change my cruising habits. I have three upcoming cruises booked and I fully intend to take all three. – Chris (@AdventureChrisS)


Cruises continue to yearn for holidays at sea.