CruiseThe international cruise line will use new protocols in Singapore to kickstart the resumption of sailing elsewhere.

Cruising will be safer than staycations: Royal Caribbean's Angie Stephen

Incremental measures, including mandatory testing of guests, are being taken to ensure that a Royal Caribbean sailing is even safer than a holiday on land.
Incremental measures, including mandatory testing of guests, are being taken to ensure that a Royal Caribbean sailing is even safer than a holiday on land.

As Singapore’s cruise industry prepares to set sail again, Royal Caribbean is one of two cruise liners that have received the Singapore government's newly-launched CruiseSafe Certification, which details a series of strict health and safety protocols.

"This is an extension of everything that Singapore has achieved on land to ensure a safe and healthy environment for its citizens – it’s been extended to sea,” says Angie Stephen, managing director, Asia Pacific, Royal Caribbean International.

Operations for Royal Caribbean in Singapore will resume on 1 December, with three and four-night ‘Ocean Getaways’ (aka cruises to nowhere) for residents on its famed Quantum of the Seas vessel.

Stephen says the global cruise operator will be implementing a comprehensive set of new health and safety measures, including testing and screening of all passengers and crew; upgraded Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems to ensure air onboard is fresh; stringent cleaning practices; sailing at 50 per cent capacity for greater physical distancing; staggered boarding procedures; and upgraded medical care and onboard facilities.

“We’re implementing the social distancing measures that we’re all familiar with on land,” Stephen explains. This means restricting gathering to groups of five people and minimising intermingling between groups. Passengers will also be required to wear masks while moving around the ship.

“There’s also incremental measures that are being taken to ensure it's even safer than a holiday on land – and that is requiring every crew member and guest to take a PRC test and test negative in order to board,” she say. 

Royal Caribbean is working with a lab partner, which has multiple locations across Singapore, where passengers will be required to take a PCR test 48 to 72 hours before boarding. And the cost of testing will be covered for anyone who sails before the end of January 2021.

Test results will be delivered a day before cruise, after which passengers can reserve a time slot to board the ship. Staggered boarding will take place between 2pm and 7pm, with the ship scheduled for a 9pm departure.

Operations for Royal Caribbean in Singapore will first resume on Quantum of the Seas from 1 December.
Operations for Royal Caribbean in Singapore will first resume on Quantum of the Seas from 1 December.

But what will the onboard experience look like?

Stephen says almost all activities and venues will be open but will operate at reduced capacity. This includes 18 dining options, the North Star glass observation capsule and SeaPlex, the largest indoor activity space at sea – home to bumper cars, trapeze school, roller skating, a basketball court and gaming.

“It’s important for us to implement health and safety measures, but we also deliver an enjoyable and fun experience – striking the right balance,” she said.

“We’re also investing in wearable Bluetooth technology to allow for contact tracing and using QR codes to view menus and facilitate contactless payments. We’re also building more features into our mobile app, like e-mustering.”

In an effort to restore consumer trust, Royal Caribbean will also offer Covid-19 protections which include a full refund if a guest tests positive onboard, and a 100 per cent credit towards a future cruise if a guest tests positive during the three weeks prior to their booked cruise. The company will also cover Covid-19 related costs up to S$25,000 (US$18,400) per person for onboard medical costs, any required quarantine and travel home.

Travel agents to play critical role in broader cruise resumption

Stephen says the company is eager to resume sailing across the region and will use the learnings from pilot cruises in Singapore to inform future itineraries.

“This is a great opportunity to learn from protocols in live action, so we’ll continue to watch and evaluate, and apply that to learnings when we implement [protocols] in other markets.

“We’re all eager for neighbouring countries to open up and welcome international guests back to Singapore... we’re currently working with authorities to enable broader groups back in,” she says.

“Our commitment to Asia and focus on growth has not changed – it’s just postponed or delayed, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

Considering the broader resumption of Asia’s cruise industry, Stephen says travel agents will also play a crucial role in rebuilding consumer confidence.

“Travel agents have always played a critical role in the success of Royal Caribbean because they have a network of clients that trust them as an advisor, so their role in recommending a cruise is even more critical now as consumers are trying to figure out what kind of travel is safe.”

Royal Caribbean will provide travel agents in Asia-Pacific a comprehensive update on its new Ocean Getaways as well as its new safety measures during a dedicated workshop at CruiseWorld Asia.

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