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NCL Details How Cruising Will Change in COVID-19 Era



Norwegian Cruise Line is detailing specifics on how cruising will change during the age of the coronavirus pandemic, the first major line to do so.

Among the changes are frequent touchless temperature checks, staff serving guests in buffets, installation of new medical-grade air filters, fogging with a natural disinfectant, staggered check-in times and reduced capacity in public areas.

The company said it has been working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to develop “stringent protocols, strategic application and supporting innovation to meet and exceed their standards once those have been finalized by them.”

NCL, which has suspended all sailings through July 31, 2020, said the following safety measures will be implemented immediately, with more in development.

— New Air Filtration

The cruise line is replacing existing air filters with medical-grade H13 HEPA filters that remove 99.95 percent of airborne pathogens across the entire fleet.

“H13 HEPA is one of the highest grades of particulate air filter, removing 99.95 percent of all particulates 0.1 microns or larger,” NCL said. “For comparison purposes, COVID-19 is 0.125 microns (25 percent larger), a single blood cell is 10 microns (10,000 percent larger) and a single human hair is 75 microns (75,000 percent larger).”

— Enhanced Screening Protocols

All guests will undergo an enhanced pre-embarkation health screening, and those considered at risk will undergo additional screening.

Guests will undergo temperature checks before embarkation, upon returning to the ship from a port of call, before all meals in dining venues, before all activities in public venues and before disembarkation.

Crew members will get their temperatures checked multiple times per day. “We’re enhancing our existing pre-employment medical examination process, which already screens for a wide variety of infectious diseases, to ensure the health and safety of our crew,” NCL said. “We’re exploring onboard testing capabilities that will allow crew members to undergo the latest, most advanced form of COVID-19 testing at any time throughout their employment contract.”

— Increased Sanitation Measures

All ships will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before every voyage in accordance with company protocols, which are developed in partnership with the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program.

In addition, embarkation terminals will be sanitized continuously, and, where possible, fogged before and after each embarkation and debarkation. Further, all staterooms, suites and public areas will be cleaned, sanitized and disinfected at an increased frequency and including the use of Electrostatic Spray Technology.

Increased sanitation efforts include fogging in staterooms and public areas with the disinfectant hypochlorous acid (HOCI). Hypochlorous acid is a non-toxic, powerful oxidant that effectively kills bacteria, spores and viruses. It is natural and safe to use in open areas since it is comprised of natural elements such as water, salt and electric charge.

The ships will get continuous disinfection of public areas and high-traffic touch points. Cleaning will occur continuously for all elevators and all public areas during on and off-peak hours.

Buffets and beverage stations will be full service with staff available to serve guests. Guests will be strongly encouraged to wash their hands frequently, including when entering food and beverage venues, and hand sanitizer will be prominently placed and easily accessible throughout the ship.

— Social Distancing

Guest capacity will be reduced to provide more space for responsible social distancing. Staggered embarkation and online check-in will be implemented. The company also will reduce capacity in all public areas throughout the voyage.

The company said it is working with port and government authorities to determine procedures that allow for proper social distancing during the embarkation process, including staggered embarkation and advanced check-in procedures.

— Additional Medical Resources

Onboard medical centers will be fully equipped with the latest testing kits and medical supplies. NCL also will increase its medical teams fleetwide. Additionally, each ship will have dedicated isolation accommodations should the need arise.

Testing kits and medical supplies include advanced on-site rapid diagnostic testing for COVID-19, more oxygen equipment, increased inventory of vaccinations and more medication to treat COVID-19.

NCL also will create a new onboard position of Public Health Officer, responsible for the oversight of all sanitation and outbreak prevention initiatives.

— Extended Ship-to-Shore Safety

NCL is partnering with local destinations and tour operators to ensure its health and sanitation protocols extend to the shoreside experience.

The ships will only visit safe, open ports of call, which may cause some itinerary changes. “This is just the start of a wave of new technologies and enhancements we are rolling out, so that you can explore the world with the ultimate Peace of Mind,” NCL said. For more details, click here.

For all cruises through Nov. 30, 2020, guests can cancel up to 48 hours before the vacation start date and receive a future cruise credit for sailings through December 2022. For all cruises Dec. 1 and beyond, guests can cancel for a full refund up to 120 days before the cruise. For details on the cancellation policy, click here.

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