Interview: Captain Havard Ramsoy, Genting Cruise Lines, Plotting the Return Course for Cruising
While COVID-19 has proven to be the biggest business disruption event in generations, for the once-booming cruise shipping industry it has meant a hard stop. Getting back to cruising will be neither fast nor easy. We reached out to Captain Havard Ramsoy, Vice President, Marine Operations and Safety, Genting Cruise Lines for insights on the path forward.
Please give an overview of the Genting Cruise Ship fleet today, and COVID-19 and its impact on the Genting Cruise business.
Throughout the unprecedented suspension of the global cruise passenger services due the COVID-19 situation, Genting Cruise Lines’ fleet, which comprises of Dream Cruises, Star Cruises and Crystal, has also been impacted with its fleet currently in hiatus.
As the health and safety of Genting Cruise Lines’ guests and crew remain its top priority, various precautionary measures with stringent health screening processes had been implemented from the onset of the pandemic. As such, there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 among guests or crew while on board or transmitted via any of Genting Cruise Lines’ ships to date.
During this hiatus period, we have taken the positive opportunity to implement comprehensive crew training to reinforce effective and enhanced cleaning procedures, health and hygiene protocols and efficient guest interaction, which we will adopt as the new safety norm for our fleet and we hope for the industry too. We were the first in the industry to launch and introduce our enhanced measures and we are proud also take the lead to collaborate with DNV GL towards the CIP-M certification of “Explorer Dream” under the Dream Cruises brand.
At this time, what is the official plan to start operating cruise ships with passengers?
We hope to start cruising very soon depending of various evolving factors, such as the reopening of ports and destinations, lifting of travel restrictions etc. We anticipate resuming operations in (late summer) and we can start by exploring to offer “Holiday at Sea” itineraries cruising to nowhere as the ship itself is a destination, filled with on board activities, performances and attractions. The Asian region has had a solid foundation as a cruise hub and destination with strong in market demand from short to long haul markets last year. Other regional markets also show promising opportunities with countries like China exploring to expand its “Travel Bubble” covering mainland China to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, as well as South Korea.
With the COVID-19 concerns, what measures have been undertaken to help ensure that the cruise journey is as safe and healthy as possible for your customers?
The COVID-19 pandemic will unquestionably change the travel industry and the way we travel, at least in the near future. Travelers will me more cautious and have heightened expectations on hygiene, safety and preventive measures in place.
Meeting and exceeding these expectations will become the new norm for the cruise industry. Initially, safe distancing will be a common practice which will see our guests checking-in online with designated times at the terminal to minimize congestion, on board venues operating at reduced capacity to ensure ample spacing among guests, the suspension of buffets with F&B being served instead etc. Our enhanced measures developed with the COVID-19 pandemic in mind will be the new norm that include stringent health screening processes and protocols, thorough sanitization and disinfection and enhanced hygiene practices for guest cabins, various onboard public areas and recreational activities, and increased food and beverage safety.
Hence, it’s important to also continue to educate and create awareness among potential and future guests to boost confidence such as informing them of our ship designs that enable 100% external fresh air to be filtered and supplied to the cabins and on board public areas – ensuring a constant and healthy flow of fresh air with no recirculation within the ship – an important feature on our cruise ships.
You recently made news as the inaugural customer for DNV GLs CIP-M certification. Please discuss the specifics of this certification, what it will cover, its cost, as well as the perceived benefit you see that it delivers.
As part of the CIP-M certification, DNV GL assesses vessel operations, including enhanced sanitation procedures, food preparation and handling, physical distancing requirements, use of personal protective equipment (PPE) by crew members, maintenance of public health essential systems, emergency response plans, pre-boarding screening, embarkation and debarkation processes, and itinerary or port planning protocols. We benefit from a strong partner like DNV GL. Its health care expertise in infection risk management has certified 640 hospitals worldwide. This will help us to ensure our comprehensive new measures cover everything. We hope this will help us to bring confidence to our customers that cruising will be safe the day we resume our business.
What will be the criteria to roll this certification out fleetwide?
We are still discussing the next steps for the certification process.
When your customers step back on board your ships, how will the cruising experience ‘look and feel’ different?
As we resume operations in the near future, these will include stringent health screening processes and protocols such as mandatory temperature screening and pre-boarding health declarations for embarkation and disembarkation; thorough sanitization, disinfection and enhanced hygiene processes for guest cabins and on board public areas at a higher frequency – public areas that were previously sanitized once daily will be sanitized two to four times daily with hospital grade disinfectants.
In addition, safe distancing will be a common practice which will see our guests checking in online with designated times at the cruise terminal to minimize congestion, while guest capacity will be reduced at on board venues to provide ample space for safe distancing between guests during the initial phase of operations. Similar hygiene and safe distancing practices will also be applied to the entertainment and recreational activities.
Self-service at buffet restaurants will also be suspended. All food and beverages will be served to guests by our crew who will be wearing face masks and gloves as added precautionary measures.
Sanitizer dispensers will also be available at various public areas and crew members will be stationed at key on board venues to provide hand sanitation. We will continue to work closely with the various regional governments and also key bodies, including DNV GL, the world’s leading advisor for the maritime industry, to safeguard the welfare of all guests and crew.