Cruises during pandemic at their ‘best’ according to 2020 passenger – but are they safe?

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Though most cruise holidays remain on hold for now, across Europe some nations have slowly begun to welcome them back. The move has been welcomed by the industry, which has suffered a series of blows since the beginning of the pandemic.

Several big-name cruise lines were thrown into the eye of the storm in the early days of the coronavirus crisis, including the Diamond Princess and Holland America’s Zaandam which both saw major outbreaks resulting in deaths.

Since then, cruise lines have been working in partnership with experts to find innovative ways to stop the spread of COVID while still allowing guests to enjoy a holiday.

Of course, even for those left devastated by cancellation, many are likely to be wary about whether cruise ships really are safe.

According to one cruise guest, they are “absolutely safe”.

What’s more, having jumped at the chance to experience one of the first cruises to resume following the virus, he told it was the “best” cruise experience he has had to date.

Adam Coulter, editor for Cruise Critic, was invited on the “Jewels of the Cyclades” cruise onboard the Greek Galileo ship which sailed Greek islands including Milos, Folegandros and Poros.

Though not one of the big-name cruise vessels which span the globe, it offered an insight into how the cruise experience will be in the future.

“There were plenty of new protocols that I noticed, right from the start. All guests completed a pre-boarding health questionnaire,” explained Adam.

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“We also took temperature and oxygen tests prior to boarding, and all passengers took those tests each day as well.

“All crew were wearing masks, there were sanitising bottles aplenty, and the ship underwent a deep cleaning every night with an air filtration device.”

While some holidaymakers might approach cruises with trepidation as they return to the waters, Adam points out that risking passenger and crew health simply is not worth it for them.

“I felt strongly that the line would not be operating at all unless they were confident it was safe to do so, and so it proved,” he said.

“I absolutely felt safe onboard. Crew always wore masks, we had daily tests and it felt like we were all in our own bubble.”

Though he says the onboard experience was “no different” to usual, there were some changes worth noting.

“Passengers could wear masks, and the line thoughtfully place a branded mask in your cabin, though most elected not to,” he said.

Dinner time also saw some minor amendments.

“The buffet was closed,” continued Adam.

“And we didn’t share tables – but as I was travelling as part of a couple I likely would not anyway.”

There has been some talk in recent months about major changes to excursions in a bid to stop the transmission of the virus between ports and passengers.

Some cruise lines, such as MSC Cruises, have issued strict rules about group excursions.

Passengers are warned they must not depart from their designated group when on shore excursions.

A similar approach was taken on the Greek island tour, though Adam says it did not impact the experience.

“We were kept in a bubble on our own transfer (boat and mini-bus), and we wore masks everywhere during our time off the ship,” he said.

“We even had Greek dancers come onboard as part of the enrichment programme, which all took place outside and with suitable precautions.

“Every day, too, there would be a swim stop – weather permitting – in secluded coves, bays and beaches, where you’d either just swim off the ship or be transported to shore.”

Though the changes are certainly noticeable, they seemingly did little to dampen the holiday.

“The experience was wonderful – one of the best cruises I have ever done,” said the cruise expert.

“The crew were outstanding and so happy to be sailing again.”

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