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Las Vegas visitors and cruise travelers have a lot in common. In particular, the two demographics greatly appreciate the convenience of enjoying world-class accommodations, activities, dining and entertainment — all in a single destination. While cruising continues to be off-limits due to COVID-19 suspensions, Vegas has officially reopened. Based on a recent trip I took to Vegas, I believe the destination’s resumption forecasts what cruisers can expect once sailings get underway again.
In Vegas, the biggest question on everyone’s minds pertains to physical distancing and face coverings. During our visit, Caesars Palace’s Caesar statue donned a gold face mask, but only about 20% or so of visitors actually followed its lead. However, since my visit, masks are now mandatory for all to wear. What’s more, reduced capacities and the lowest crowds that the Strip has likely seen in decades makes social separation an easier endeavor.
RELATED: How the Las Vegas Strip Is Preparing to Safely Reopen
The same is very likely to be true onboard a cruise ship. Guest capacities are expected to be capped, greatly reducing the density of passengers and facilitating distancing. But, if online comments are any indication of cruise travelers’ inclination to wear masks, the overwhelming majority are not interested in it, with most indicating they will cancel their trips if masks become mandatory. Once again, the burden is on already hard-hit cruise lines to make sailings work without enforcing masks to accommodate their bread-and-butter customers.
And that’s where enhanced cleanliness comes into play. Vegas resorts are now constantly scrubbing high-contact surfaces, from slot machines to door handles, and are even going so far as to clean guestrooms before sealing entry doors with a sanitary sticker. Casino floors have also added full sink basins as well as ubiquitous sanitizer dispensers to encourage frequent handwashing. In response to norovirus, cruise ships have been doing this for years, but they will still have to ramp up guests’ compliance with these measures, as well as consider installing better air filtration.
Another curiosity in Vegas is just how much resort space is abandoned. At MGM Grand, several signature restaurants such as Emeril’s New Orleans Fish House, Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill have reopened, but others, including many bars and the buffet, are still closed.
Sprawling properties in Vegas may have the luxury of being able to suspend large venues, but cruise ships maximize every inch of active area. In other words, vessels cannot afford to not make all of their offerings available. Onboard shows and buffets will be back, but with modifications. Theaters will likely space out with every other seat occupied, and buffets will surely become full service for some time. Even The Buffet at Wynn has since reopened with tableside, all-you-can-eat delivery of nearly 90 dishes.
While comparing Las Vegas’ reopening measures with those of cruise travel, one remaining consideration is the permission of smoking, which is a lasting concern beyond coronavirus. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Vegas has continued to allow a proliferation of secondhand fumes in its casinos, but gaming floors take up a much larger percentage of resort properties than they do on ships. Will cruises finally abolish smoking and the resulting air pollution in neighboring venues in light of their relatively small casinos? Now is certainly the time to consider and implement it.