There will be strict COVID-19 protocols in place when Virgin Voyages' new cruise ship sails out of Miami next month.
There's no question that the cruise industry was hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, but Virgin Voyages has adapted to try and make it a safe experience for their passengers.
"Making sure people are safe and secure when they go back on vacation is of fundamental importance to us," said Dee Cooper, Virgin Voyages' SVP of Design.
Safety will be at the forefront on the maiden voyage of the cruise line's new ship Scarlet Lady, when it departs from Miami next month.
Before passengers can get on board, they'll have to fill out a health questionairre and input their vaccine card on an app, then get a PCR COVID test on site at the terminal at PortMiami.
"We ask all our sailors to have their full vaccination before they book their cruise," Cooper said. "When they come to the terminal they are tested again so they make sure that they’re well when they board the cruise."
What can passengers expect when they're on board? They'll se plenty of social distancing markers on the ground, as well as hand sanitizing stations throughout the ship.
The ship will also feature more outdoor spaces and not as many passengers.
"We also have a lower capacity on board our ship. So we’re sailing at 50 percent capacity so there’s lots of space for people to enjoy across the ship," Cooper said.
As passengers wine and dine, they'll find that the ship's restaurants were designed to be spread out on the ship to make it easier to maintain distance.
"Traditionally, there are big 600-seater restaurants on board ships or there’s a big huge buffet area and we don’t have either of those things," Cooper said.
At the height of the pandemic, in March 2020, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped cruises from leaving ports. Recently, the CDC imposed a framework allowing cruises to gradually resume if certain conditions were met.
A Florida lawsuit challenged the regulations, and according to the latest ruling in July, the feds cannot enforce the rules on Florida-based ships, but they can remain as guidelines.
Virgin Voyages said they follow the latest CDC and local guidelines.
Cooper was aksed whether passengers have to wear a mask on board.
"If a customer is vaccinated, sometimes they get choice but really we encourage people to wear their masks. Obviously when you’re eating and drinking, you don’t have to," Cooper said.
If someone does happen to get infected with COVID on the Scarlet Lady, they will be immediately isolated, and taken off.
The maiden voyage leaves PortMiami on Oct. 6 and heads to the Bahamas.
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