The first cruise after the Covid-19 pandemic has set sail! River cruise line CEOs had already predicted that river cruising would return quicker than ocean in the CLIA River Cruise Update 2020 I covered on the blog in May 2020.
nickoVision is the First Cruise after Covid-19
Following the suspension of cruises worldwide due to Covid-19, nicko cruises has returned to sailing. The nickoVision, set sail on 1st June with 110 German passengers on an eleven-day Passau to Dusseldorf cruise, on the Rivers Rhine and Danube. The river ship can hold 220 passengers but is sailing at a lower capacity due to social distancing guidelines.
This river cruise remains in one country (Germany) and it’s likely that we will see more single-country cruises in the coming months as some European countries’ borders remain closed.
On the first cruise after Covid-19, strict new health and safety procedures are in place. There are temperature checks, additional disinfecting measures, reduced capacity to allow social distancing and masks compulsory for the crew and passengers in some areas onboard and on the transfer and excursion buses. Self-service buffets have been suspended. A doctor also joined the passengers onboard.
Before the Cruise
- All guests receive a health questionnaire to be completed and brought to embarkation
- Only passengers who pass the health questionnaire will be allowed to cruise
- Contactless temperature checks will be carried out before passengers can board the river ship
- Antibody tests will be carried out by the onboard doctor before embarkation
- Doctor will decide if passengers are healthy to board the ship
- Higher hygiene standards for crew and passengers
- nicko cruises will operate at 70 to 80% capacity
- If there is not enough space to adhere to social distancing guidance, one way systems will be implemented
- Two meal times will be available to reduce the number of people in the restaurant at one time
- The restaurant will have less tables to ensure enough space and dividing walls can be installed
- Restaurant and bar staff will wear masks and gloves
- No self-service buffet, crew will serve from the buffet or passengers can choose an al a carte breakfast
- No menu choices for meals will be taken by the restaurant staff
- Passengers must wear masks when in the corridors and gangways
- The spa, pool and gym facilities will be closed for hygiene reasons
- Masks will be mandatory on buses
- There will be extra stops for regular hand washing
- The excursions will be divided into smaller groups
- A daily temperature check is carried out the monitor the health of every passenger throughout the cruise
- Headsets during guided excursions will mean that passengers can stay a safe distance from each other.
Light Blue Travel is the UK representative for nicko cruises.
“It’s heartening to see green shoots of a return to European river cruising by nicko cruises – it’s a positive step forward. For keen UK cruise fans European river cruising will be a good option as they start travelling again. Smaller vessels with less passengers, easy to reach embarkation ports by air, rail or self-drive and sailing never far from land.”Rupert Thomson, Light Blue Travel
River cruising was always going to bounce back quicker after the Covid-19 pandemic than ocean cruises. The ships are always close to land, have fewer passengers and can operate single-country cruises for passengers living within these countries. I anticipate that Douro River cruises within Portugal will also follow shortly.
Other river cruise companies will be watching and waiting to see how this first cruise after Covid-19 works. It is likely that more river cruises will return if it is successful and safe for passengers.
My Thoughts on the Return of River Cruising
Personally, I feel the temperature and antibody checks are great safety features to be introduced. nicko cruises has put a lot of thought into how its ships will be able to operate going forward. My biggest concern would be not feeling completely relaxed on a river cruise at this present time. As I write this, the UK has the highest number of deaths due to Covid-19 in Europe and more deaths per day compared to the whole of Europe combined. Germany is in a much better position to restart cruises and therefore it is likely to be a lot safer for German cruisers.
Would I be bothered about wearing a face covering in corridors? In all honesty, probably not. I am very conscious of social distancing at the moment so being in close proximity to other passengers would be my main concern.
The Covid-19 pandemic has not put me off cruising. I will cruise again and already have one booked. But let’s not rush things, we need to be honest with ourselves. Yes, most of us can’t wait for the time when we can cruise again but the UK is not there yet. The first cruise after Covid-19 will pave the way for future cruising.