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Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is scheduled to be one of the first seagoing brands to resume operation July 25, departing from the Port of Palm Beach, Fla.
Operating independently of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the company can resume cruises before CLIA’s recent Sept. 15 extended suspension date.
To get a better sense of how the cruise line is planning to safely restart, we spoke with Kevin Sheehan Jr., president of Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line.
What do you think it will take to attract guests back to international ocean cruising during the pandemic? How do cruise durations play into that?I believe that short cruises will be the trend of the future, as travelers seek ways to ease into cruising without committing to a five- or seven-night itinerary that is far from home. I am almost certain that we can expect an uptick in micro vacations once travel returns, and we already see increased demand into the end of 2020 and the first quarter of 2021. Not only will short cruises dominate the industry, but we will also see the Cruise & Stay package become more commonplace, allowing travelers to extend their stay in destinations.
What is Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line doing differently to entice guests at this time?Similar to what we mentioned before, our “micro-cation” concept gives travelers a quick yet memorable cruise vacation that departs from West Palm Beach, so it’s easily accessible, yet feels a world away. As the only short-cruise product on the market, we understand the dynamic and have already built a successful product in this regard, offering a fun, easy getaway that is transportive while keeping people close to home.
For the cruise industry to return to somewhat normal, travelers need to see flexible rebooking policies, in addition to stringent health and safety guidelines, so that they feel safe.
We recently introduced our new health and safety protocols to keep guests and crew safe when we return to sea, starting July 25th. In fact, we were the first cruise line to receive a Green status from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention on our No Sail Response plan, meaning we have met its requirements in providing a safe environment for our crew members to work and disembark via non-commercial travel. As of today, we have the only cruise ship in the country to have Green status. We also launched our Sail with Ease Policy earlier this year, which allows guests to confidently book sailings with flexible cancellations and a 125% Future Cruise Credit, which is valid until Dec. 31, 2021.
What will be expected of guests specifically regarding social distancing and face masks?We’re currently preparing for the increased travel demand post-COVID-19 by installing improved health and safety protocols across our fleet, so that travelers can enjoy a short cruise escape to paradise without worrying about health risks.
These updated procedures include:
- We will close two-passenger stateroom decks to reduce crowds onboard.
- All terminal staff members will be monitored and required to wear masks and remain behind safety plexiglass for minimal contact.
- Self-service buffet stations have been suspended; all food and beverage will be served by crew members wearing face masks, hats, aprons and gloves.
- Tables and seating areas will keep guests six feet apart to facilitate social distancing.
- Casino players per table will be restricted to ensure social distancing, and slot machines will be positioned to separate players.
- Tour buses for excursions will be reduced to 50% capacity.
As for requiring guests to wear face masks, we are continuing to monitor and assess the situation and will come to a final decision closer to our sailing date of July 25.
RELATED: TravelAge West Cruise Survey: Advisors Suggest Struggling but Promising Future for CruisingBesides implementing new health measures onboard, how will the company address concerns of viral transmission to guests from the Bahamas itself? Will passengers be screened again following their time ashore?From embarkation to disembarkation at Palm Beach and Grand Bahama Island, we have implemented the following measures to address these concerns:
- Mandatory temperature screening and pre-boarding health declarations for all guests
- Infrared fever screening system at the ship gangway
- Higher frequency with increased levels of sanitization and disinfection at the ship gangway and passenger walkways
- Stringent checks for all embarking individuals including crew travel documents; guests aged 70 years and above to provide a doctor’s certificate of fitness for travel
- Online check-in for guests to receive designated arrival time at the cruise terminal to minimize crowd congestion
- Additional waiting areas for cruise boarding and disembarkation (with staggered times)
- Compliance with all local port and health authorities’ regulations
What do you think the future holds in the short-term and long-term for the cruise market? Do you anticipate cruising will eventually return to normal?Yes, especially now that we’re all starting to emerge from months of quarantine, we can all use a quick getaway. Cruises allow diverse options for entertainment, food and drinks, games and so much more before reaching your destination — it’s like two vacations in one.
For the cruise industry to return to somewhat normal, travelers need to see flexible rebooking policies, in addition to stringent health and safety guidelines, so that they feel safe. It’s also vital that we continue to encourage guests to support the travel industry by rescheduling trips instead of canceling them. Dealing with this crisis has taught us to remain fluid, and as a result, we have been encouraging guests to take advantage of both our Sail with Ease Policy and Future Cruise Credit. Currently, our two-night cruise and Cruise & Stay guests who are booked on a canceled sailing receive a 125% Future Cruise Credit to reschedule their cruise to a future date. However, if they’d like a refund, they are entitled to 100% of the two-night cruise or Cruise & Stay price.
With additional safety and sanitization policies and social distancing to maintaining flexibility in all other areas, cruising will return to a new normal, and Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line is a prime example of what that will look like. With that said, our onboard experience may look a little different when we return, but no matter what, providing a great experience will be at the heart of everything we do.
The DetailsBahamas Paradise Cruise Linewww.bahamasparadisecruise.com