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On Tuesday, July 14, Windstar Cruises announced its “Beyond Ordinary Care” health and safety plan for returning to service starting in September. The line is implementing enhanced hardware as well as updated protocols.
Fleet-wide HVAC systems are being outfitted with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines in place for healthcare facilities. UV-C light (or germicidal irradiation) will additionally eradicate bacteria and viruses not trapped in the HEPA filter.
Furthermore, guestrooms, public spaces, crew quarters, the medical clinic and other wellness areas will be regularly sanitized using the EvaClean with PurTab formula, a robust EPA-approved cleaner.
Before boarding, guests will fill out a health questionnaire and be screened, and their embarkation will be staggered. They will be required to wear masks while traveling to the ship.
Once onboard, main restaurants will operate at a reduced capacity of 65%, and specialty venues will be capped at 60%. Plus, dining times will be expanded, and tables will be spread apart.
Extra medical staff will be available, and crew will be screened daily and wear masks. The line will still maintain its hallmark cordiality, however: In lieu of handshakes or hugs, it will employ the new “Windstar Wave” signal, a W formed with index fingers and thumbs.
Meanwhile, shore excursions will also stagger arrivals and departures, and be reduced in capacity. Capacities for tenders, motor coaches and smaller boats will be reduced to 50%. On tours, guests will be asked to wear masks.
Christopher Prelog, Windstar’s chief operating officer, and Betsy O’Rourke, chief marketing officer of parent company Xanterra Travel Collection, share more about the new procedures.
There seems to be three things that everybody is being asked to do regardless of whether they’re traveling or at home, and that is wash your hands, wear a mask and social distance. If our guests are going to be doing all that when they go onshore, we feel very confident in all the measures that we are taking and that they will have a great experience.
What led Windstar to these particular health and safety protocols?Prelog: The way we approached this solution is there is not one golden bullet to address all the needs of COVID-19. We stepped back and said, let’s look at this holistically. Let’s look at all elements of our operation. That is where we landed on doing essentially everything: upgrading our infrastructure, enhancing our resources onboard (meaning more staff) and also fine-tuning our operations to deal with the pandemic.
Will overall guest capacity be reduced to facilitate physical distancing?O’Rourke: We are going to have some rooms out of service in the event that we need them for quarantine as required. Otherwise, our belief is that our ships — we have a lot of outdoor space — are naturally socially distanced, thankfully. We will manage social distancing in terms of capacity at different venues.
Will face coverings be required of passengers at any time onboard?Prelog: We strongly encourage guests to wear face coverings, especially when they travel. Onboard, our crew will certainly be required to wear face masks.
O’Rourke: We are not going to mandate it onboard for guests at this moment in time, but we certainly think it’s a good idea when you’re in indoor public spaces. But, again, the way our yachts are designed, you do not spend a lot of time indoors. When you are inside, we do not have crowds. So, it is unlikely that it will be necessary.
How confident are you that Windstar will begin operating again as currently scheduled?Prelog: We are fairly confident that the September launch of Wind Spirit will go according to plan. There are, of course, still elements that are being worked on from local governments and CDC. But knowing that other operators are kicking off the Tahiti program a month or two earlier than us and are marching ahead, we are pretty confident.
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O’Rourke: The government is actually encouraging us to come back. They are excited to get us back in business. The airline partners are requiring a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of boarding the flight. So, that certainly gives us confidence that there are no cases, to our knowledge, now in Tahiti.
What should travel advisors be sharing with their clients at this time?O’Rourke: Hopefully our whole program. There is a lot of excitement at Windstar.
In terms of these extraordinary health and safety measures, with this very layered approach, we have literally taken the best of science, technology and behavior, and put them all together to create a great environment onboard.
When you look at our itineraries, we are going to places that are small ports and harbors. So, we are not taking people into big, crowded locations, which naturally provides social distancing.
As part of this program, we are expecting our guests to appreciate everything we are doing and be compliant and participate in keeping the entire community safe. There seems to be three things that everybody is being asked to do regardless of whether they’re traveling or at home, and that is wash your hands, wear a mask and social distance. If our guests are going to be doing all that when they go onshore, then we feel very confident in all the measures that we are taking and that they will have a great experience.
Now, we are also really excited about Star Breeze, our first Star Plus yacht coming out of Palermo. She will be on U.S. shores in San Juan in late November.
Prelog: What travel agents should also advise their clients of is that small-ship cruising or small-yacht cruising is a very different experience compared to large ships with thousands of people. We are managing a much smaller operation, and on small ships you can do things differently than you could on larger ships.
The DetailsWindstar Cruiseswww.windstarcruises.com