Whoopee! The cruise lines are returning to service as of November 1st. Mid-March, the cruise lines suspended all sailing operations due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Since then, the cruise lines have been hard at work repatriating its crew and staff, to ensure their health and safety. After nine months of being out of operation, the cruise lines are finally returning to welcoming guests back on board, but with limited capacity. Presumably by summer 2021, the cruise lines will return to full capacity. All cruisers must remember that sailing day will be filled with plenty of anticipation. Even though a few revisions will be in effect, sailing day will be the same order of operation. As always, sailing day is the most exciting day of any cruise vacation, with much excitement to go around. Before sailing again, all cruisers must take the time to familiarize themselves with the basics of sailing day. Having understood the pomp and circumstance, sailing day will be second nature. It would be what they say, “smooth sailing”.
#1. Arriving at the cruise terminal on-time: This is unlike arriving at work on-time, getting to school on-time, or getting to the train station on-time. Check-in normally opens at 10 am, with boarding starting approximately 11 am (11:45 the latest). Guests should have completed their online registration process, including the key components: personal and passport information, on-board charge information, and pre- and post-cruise information (if applicable).
#2. Pier security: The cruise lines take safety and security both at the pier and on board seriously. The cruise lines have strict guidelines regarding items allowed and not allowed on board ship. Any items that are considered a danger to the safety and well-fare to all guests and crew are not permitted. Prohibited items include baseball bats, corkscrews, blenders, scissors (over 4 inches in length), toasters, Swiss Army knives, and plug strips.
#3. On-board charge accounts: Prior to sailing, all guests should set up their on-board charge accounts. This should be done prior to sailing to minimize their time during check-in at the cruise terminal. The payer must make sure that he/she enters the credit/debit card number under his/her name, and no one else’s to prevent any confusion or mishaps. Cruise lines also allow guests to set up cash accounts for on-board charge. Guests must inquire with the check-in agent regarding this option. Further, adults must carefully decide whether or not to give their youngsters on-board charge privileges. Disney Cruise Line makes life easier for adults. All guests at ages 10 and under are defaulted as being disallowed on-board charge privileges.
#4. Security pictures: Some cruise lines may give guests the opportunity of uploading their own security pictures. Other cruise lines have the shore staff take the guests’ security pictures. Either way, guests should follow the guidelines regarding security pictures. No headwear (except for religious purposes), and sunglasses are not allowed to be worn. Further, comical faces are not permitted. Many cruise lines are using facial recognition to process guests more efficiently during boarding and disembarkation. Note to all guests: Guests who refuse to have their security pictures taken WILL NOT be allowed to sail. Therefore, the full cooperation from all guests is greatly encouraged.
#5. Luggage: Luggage normally takes 2 to 3 hours to reach the staterooms. The recommended tip for the longshoremen is $2.00 per bag. Each and every sailing day, cruise ships handle up to 15,000 pieces of luggage. Every piece of luggage is put through a thorough x-ray screening. Guests should have a change of clothes set aside in their carry-on baggage, as well as any medications needed (refrigerated or not). Guests MUST NOT pack any alcoholic beverages in their luggage. 2 bottles of wine, champagne, or 1 six pack of beer are the only exceptions. Any other alcohol found in luggage will be confiscated and not returned. Note: Guests should have their travel documents (i.e. passports) in their carry-on baggage and NOT in their checked luggage.
#6. Boarding process: Each cruise line has their own unique order of operation for boarding. Guests must carefully note the boarding process as explained by the shore staff’s announcements. Once the boarding process has begun, guests are to wait patiently for their turn to board the vessel. Also, guests MUST NOT put their stateroom key cards or cruise tickets away. The boarding process, depending on the number of guests, can be tedious. Guests will need to keep their key cards and cruise tickets out for the shore staff to inspect while proceeding to the gangway.
#7. Lunchtime: Cruise lines are well-known for their sinful cuisine. Lunchtime on board ship is among the most-looked-forward to activities on sailing day. Once safely aboard the vessel, guests are welcome to enjoy the buffet lunch on the top deck. In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, all guests must thoroughly wash their hands and use the hand sanitizing gel upon entering and exiting. Hand washing and sanitizing will be strictly enforced by both the dining and culinary staff.
#8. Staterooms: On sailing day, staterooms are normally available for occupancy by 1:30 pm. Guests should listen for the staff announcement when the staterooms are ready. Inside the staterooms, guests should locate the following: muster assembly station, code of conduct, the digital safe for storing valuables, and refrigerator for storing medications. Depending on the cruise line, guests’ dining assignments are posted inside their staterooms. Guests will have the opportunity to meet their stateroom attendants who will be taking care of their staterooms throughout the cruise.
#9. Bars/clubs/casino: Every cruise ship features a smorgasbord of bars and clubs for guests’ enjoyment. On sailing day, guests are welcome to tour the clubs and the casino to become acquainted with the ship’s layout. Once again, guests must thoroughly wash their hands or sanitize upon entrance and exiting. Each of the bars, clubs, and the ship’s casino are exclusively intended for various age groups. All staff strictly enforce the age policy regarding occupancy and consumption of alcohol. Guests’ stateroom key cards indicate whether they’re allowed to drink and/or gamble.
#10. Virtual muster drill: In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, the normal emergency muster drill will be a thing of the past. Moving forward, the virtual muster drill will be the new normal. Prior to sailing day, all guests will be required to view the virtual muster drill via any smart device (ex. tablet or smart phone). Guests will also have the option of viewing the virtual muster drill on their stateroom TV. Prior to sailing, all guests will be required to check in with their muster station leaders. When doing so, guests will present their stateroom key cards and showing proof that they have viewed the virtual muster drill. Same as before, attendance is taken.
After a long hiatus due to the Coronavirus, the cruising industry is finally returning to action. Once again, there will be great on-board shows to enjoy, incredible cuisine to sink teeth into, memorable shore excursions to appreciate, and exciting poolside activities to participate in. As always, every cruise vacation starts with a memorable sailing day. Sailing day is the day to look forward to all the on-board fun that awaits. Before packing the bags, all guests should take notice of the basics of sailing day. Some things are the same as they remember, while some things may have changed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, including the muster drill. November 1st is slowly approaching. While time allows, all cruisers-both 1st time and multi-time, should re-familiarize themselves with sailing day procedures. Being familiar with the simple elements of sailing day, coupled with the new normal post-Coronavirus adjustments, will ensure cruisers even greater times ahead on the high seas.