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Cruising’s back – but don’t set sail without first consulting our essential guide to the new rules

Shorter cruises, fewer ports of call, activities organised by age and passengers divided into small groups are just some of the new recommendations to get cruise lines operating again this summer.

While a trickle of cruises is already under way on Europe’s rivers and oceans, the UK’s major cruise lines have paused operations while waiting on public health advice.

That finally arrived this week, with the EU Healthy Gateways’ Covid-19 guidance.

A graphic showing all of the new post-lockdown guidelines for cruise ships in order to get them operating again this summer

‘The cruise industry is already well-prepared when it comes to cleaning and sanitisation,’ said Andy Harmer, director of the Cruise Lines International Association UK & Ireland (CLIA), ‘but this is all about going further with more conversations to flesh out the details.’

CLIA members include P&O, Cunard, MSC, Saga, Fred Olsen, Crystal, Celebrity, Seabourn and Holland America Line.

‘A door-to-door policy will certainly be part of the cruise experience — from talking to your travel agent right through to disembarkation,’ Mr Harmer told the Mail. ‘The strategy for reducing the risk of Covid-19 on cruise ships will start at the time of booking until passengers return home.’

For older passengers it is suggested advice should be sought from a doctor before making any cruise decisions. Talking to a travel agent will be imperative, including discussion on travel insurance if you are unable to board or need to be repatriated. Fair and flexible booking policies by cruise lines will also help give passengers confidence.

The EU Healthy Gateways’ overall guidance is for ‘a gradual return to the seas’ with the following recommendations:


Cruise ship passengers might see shorter itineraries and a limited number of port visits on sailings in the future

Cruise ship passengers might see shorter itineraries and a limited number of port visits on sailings in the future 

There will be shorter itineraries of three to seven days and a limited number of port visits.


Thorough pre-cruise and embarkation screening, prevention measures, electronic form-filling — a health questionnaire and a locator form to show permanent and temporary addresses plus travel companions — explanations on physical distancing, mask wearing, hand hygiene and ‘respiratory etiquette’ (sneezing/coughing) will be part of the arrivals procedure. Disinfection of luggage, especially the handles, to be considered before loading.


Activities and services on board could be arranged by age so older passengers are separated from other age groups.


Dividing passengers into small groups for meals, embarkation and tours to be introduced.


Any items that can’t be cleaned and disinfected between change-overs could go. This includes coffee makers and kettles, menus and magazines. These could now only be on request, and the mini-bar used only as a fridge. A disposable cover should be placed on the television and air-conditioning remote controls.


All buffets on cruises will be out with room service recommended in order to avoid overcrowding in restaurants

All buffets on cruises will be out with room service recommended in order to avoid overcrowding in restaurants 

All buffets are out and condiments should be in disposable packaging. Self-service of plates, cutlery and utensils should not be allowed; food handlers should serve water, coffee and juice.

Room service is recommended to avoid overcrowding in restaurants.


A daily newspaper left on your bed may be a thing of the past. Saga Cruises managing director Nigel Blanks says there will ‘definitely be a shift towards a digital-first approach’.

Many cruise lines already use touchscreen information panels and electronic door keys/cruise passes. MSC guests use electronic wristbands and Princess Cruises has Ocean Medallions to open cabin doors as well making online bookings, orders and purchases.


During excursions, guides must adhere to distancing measures and the use of masks, including on tender boats. While travelling in groups, passengers must maintain distance from other tours.


A record of gym users should be kept and machines placed at least two metres apart and cleaned after each use. Longer intervals between classes will allow the room to be ventilated.


Indoor pools are discouraged and the number of swimmers in any pool should be restricted so each has four square metres of water surface.


There will be new rules on who can use hot tubs on ships when cruising returns

There will be new rules on who can use hot tubs on ships when cruising returns 

Only to be used by those staying in the same cabin.


Wearing of masks is strongly recommended for passengers and crew in any area where social distancing of 1.5 metres cannot be guaranteed, including the embarkation terminal, on tours and transfer buses and in narrow corridors and lifts.


Social distancing of at least 1.5m is recommended across the ship including receptions, casinos and theatres. Transparent screens at the reception and other service points are advised.


While some cruise lines have already reduced passenger numbers — Hapag-Lloyd’s fleet will sail with 40 percent fewer guests and the new Saga ship Spirit Of Adventure will sail with 800 rather than 999 passengers on her inaugural cruise in November — ships must be able to isolate five per cent of passengers in individual cabins when it will not be possible for them to disembark.


Older passengers or those with underlying health conditions will not have to obtain a doctor’s note before sailing, but anyone over 65 or with chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular, diabetes, or respiratory diseases, will be advised to see a doctor to assess if they are fit to travel.


Children's outdoor play areas will be preferable to indoor areas and numbers will be reduced

Children’s outdoor play areas will be preferable to indoor areas and numbers will be reduced 

Children’s play areas outdoors will be preferable, and in indoor areas, numbers should be reduced to maintain physical distancing. Consideration may be given to separating children into groups.


Adequate testing for Covid-19 and the immediate reporting of any possible case will be a must, as are arrangements for treatment ashore. Daily contactless temperature checks are advised, so expect thermal cameras in terminals and on ships. Virgin Voyages has this already, and other cruise lines are expected to follow.


Bathroom extractor fans should run continuously. Virgin Voyages boasts an air purification system that has been shown to kill 99.9 per cent of viruses.


Interaction of ship and shore-based crew and staff to be limited, as well as organisation of taxis and coaches to prevent crowding