November 6, 2020 Probus Speaker: Ronnie Pitcher, Expedia Cruises.
When will we cruise again?
Many members enjoy cruising (ocean and river) and we are not able to plan ahead while in Covid. We all receive cruise information in the mail and emails but planning for a cruise in late 2021 seems a long time away. Ronnie Pitcher a 15 year veteran of the cruise industry spoke to us to help us understand the current challenges for the cruise industry and when we might be comfortable in cruising again.
Ronnie said Covid, for good reason, has stopped all cruising. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), which controls the cruise industry by protocols, has worked very slowly in adopting protocols for the industry. They final issued protocols on Oct 31 but they then said all cruises needed to submit a request for resumption of sailing 60 days in advance. Therefore, earliest possible date for cruising is Jan 1, 2021. However, cruise lines need to develop their own Covid-19 testing capability.
The bottom line, Ronnie said, is many people will not travel before a vaccine is available. That maybe spring or summer. Cruise lines would like us to book now but there are questions many have before doing so:
- With countries closing borders and changing rules frequently, itineraries are subject to change. Some countries will not allow any ships, others restricted number of ships, compared to before. Quarantine rules are constantly changing, making planning difficult. This gets more complicated when you have to fly to and from a country to get on and off the ship. Most travel takes you through the USA.
- Another challenge Cruisers have is the need for travel insurance. Restrictions and availability in Covid times may be daunting and changeable.
- Many people are not anxious to book now because of possible cancellations. Ronnie said that his experience with cancellations with cruise companies has been extremely positive – full refunds, future credits
- New cleaning protocols on ships have significantly increased passenger confidence. Shore excursions will be more controlled by cruise lines. All suppliers in the travel industry are banded together by protocols
When asked what cruising could look like in the future Ronnie had a few ideas:
- Reduced capacity: ships may reduce the number of cabins, not using inside cabins
- Fewer ships will be allowed to visit ports at the same time
- Everyone will have to take own responsibility when traveling i.e. masks
We learned travel is now in an ever-changing protocol world. The industry is adapting and hopes to instill enough confidence in travelers to return to cruising in 2021. With a new vaccine on the way to control Covid, along with protocols working to restore confidence, you could be on your way to booking your cruise for 2021.