June 1, 2020
(4 p.m. EDT) -- Norwegian Cruise Line has taken the wraps off its new health and safety protocols, as part of the line's new Peace of Mind program.
The six-point program will cover every aspect of the cruise experience from check-in to embarkation and onboard procedures and services. While passengers won't be expected to wear masks, they will be required to observe social distancing regulations at all times in public areas.
While river cruise lines have come out with their own health and safety protocols recently, Norwegian becomes the first big-ship cruise line to publicly announce procedures cruisers can expect when voyages resume.
Here's a rundown of what these new heath and safety protocols will look like, which will be carried across to Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings brands Oceania and Regent Seven Seas:
Enhanced Screening Protocols
It should come as no surprise that Norwegian will be requiring new enhanced screening procedures that go above and beyond the outdated health questionnaire that used to accompany embarkation.
Norwegian will now institute a pre-embarkation health screening and touchless temperature checks at various times, including prior to embarkation and disembarkation; upon returning to the ship at any port of call; prior to activities in public venues; and prior to meals in all dining venues.
Crew will also be required to participate in extended health screenings, including a more comprehensive Pre-Employment Medical Examination process that goes beyond the standard marine medical screening (already very comprehensive), temperature checks at multiple times of the day, and COVID-19 testing throughout crew member's contracts while onboard.
Responsible Social Distancing
Norwegian will implement a policy of responsible social distancing while onboard through various measures.
First, the line will be reducing capacity across its fleet to allow for fewer overall passengers, and limiting capacity in all public areas throughout the voyage.
Embarkations will be staggered and advanced online check-in procedures will be implemented to ensure crowding at the terminal doesn't become an issue.
The line notes it will continue to work with all authorities to develop additional procedures in line with CDC and local health agencies around the world.
Norwegian also says that all onboard activities will still be available, though offered with reduced capacity and some modifications to ensure proper social distancing procedures.
Increased Sanitation Measures
Sanitization will be increased throughout the voyage, with all vessels thoroughly cleaned and disinfected prior to the start of every cruise. Protocols have been designed in partnership with the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program.
Terminals will be sanitized continuously and fogged before and after each embarkation and disembarkation where possible.
All staterooms, suites and public areas will be disinfected at an increased frequency with Electrostatic Spray technology. Fogging will use hypochlorous acid (HOCl), 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 and salt, and electric charge.
Buffets and beverage service stations will no longer be self-serve, and will now offer staff available to serve passengers. Passengers will be encouraged to wash hands frequently throughout the day. Hand sanitizer will be prominently placed throughout the ship.
New Air Filtration
Norwegian will be using H13 HEPA medical-grade air filters throughout each vessel. These are designed to remove 99.95% of airborne pathogens.
Enhanced Medical Resources Onboard
Norwegian will be creating an entirely new position onboard, known as a Public Heath Officer, across all vessels. These individuals will be responsible for sanitization oversight and outbreak prevention onboard, and will be in charge of the overall day-to-day cleanliness of the vessel in compliance with the CDC's Vessel Sanitation Program.
The line will also equip its vessels with additional onsite COVID-19 tests; an increased inventory of vaccinations and medications, including those eventually approved to treat COVID-19.
Only Visiting Approved Ports; Itinerary Changes Possible
Norwegian also states it will work with local governments to ensure health and safety policies in each of its ports of call are respected and adhered to. The line notes it is committed to visiting only safe ports of call that are designated as open and are actively welcoming visitors. The company said that this may cause itinerary changes to future voyages, but that the line will work to inform passengers in a timely manner.
While much of this will be new to cruisers, Norwegian's policies should provide some reassurance to those looking to embark on a cruise vacation when it is deemed safe to do so. The bulk of the experience will be there, but some patience and understanding will need to be exercised by passengers during the pandemic, both onboard and ashore.
Additional health and safety protocols for other lines will be listed on Cruise Critic's dedicated page as they become available.