How To Turn Risk Into An Opportunity: Part 4 – Other Cruise News: ACL Drops Passenger Service Till Year-End – By Cargo Ship From Asia To USA With An ESTA

by Kevin Griffin

This week sees The Cruise Examiner’s guest editor Jennifer Holland deliver the conclusion of her four-part series concentrating on the perceptions of risk in the cruise industry. Elsewhere in these days of non-stop Covid-19, bad news returns with the announced withdrawal until the end of the year of Atlantic Container Line’s weekly North Atlantic cargo-passenger service. Once or twice a year we do a cargo-passenger update so this week we will also advise of better news elsewhere. And that is that the NSB container ship Conti Annapurna now offers a way to travel from Asia to the USA on an ESTA Electronic System for Travel Authorization, whereas previous carriers had required a full US B1/B2 Visa.


How To Turn Risk Into An Opportunity (Conclusion) (Dr Jennifer Holland)

(* This is the final instalment of a four-part series exploring perceptions of risk in cruising, with the aim of shining a light on beginning positive ways the cruise industry can use the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to “come back stronger than ever”.)

Dr. Jennifer Holland - Cruise & Tourism Researcher - Industry Consultant - Secretary, Geographies of Leisure & Tourism Research Group (RGS) - Research Fellow, Royal Geographical Society

Dr. Jennifer Holland – Cruise & Tourism Researcher – Industry Consultant – Secretary, Geographies of Leisure & Tourism Research Group (RGS) – Research Fellow, Royal Geographical Society

Over the last three weeks have looked at different ways risk affects how people decide whether to go on a cruise or not, and how it applies in this time of Covid-19.
So where do we go from here?

While no one can predict the future and the difficulties that lie ahead in restarting operations, existing research can give insight into what might happen next and guide recommendations.
Future scenarios differ depending on whether there is a vaccine or not. A vaccine would be ideal and potentially return operations more quickly although it is uncertain when or how we will ever go back to pre-Covid-19 levels. However, the cruise industry, like many others, can’t wait for a vaccine.

Specific barriers to beginning operations right now include:

– Access to ports
– CDC requirements and legal implications
– Repatriation of crew
– Return crew onboard once operations begin
– Operational challenges for social distancing
– Uncertainty around when travel bans will be lifted
– Technological challenges in testing and tracing

The cruise industry has operated with the highest standards of sanitation and measures to prevent outbreaks. Comparing norovirus data onboard and ashore between 2008 and 2014, data tells us that only 0.002% of global passengers were infected onboard compared to 6% of the wider population in the USA for the same period. This tells us that the health precautions and measures taken onboard were appropriate and effective. More questions will be asked in the future and lessons must be learned from the ships that were most affected by Covid-19, but early research indicates infection rates on the Diamond Princess were the same as ashore at that time.

What will cruising look like in the future?

Regardless if there is a vaccine, there will be even more screening to board the ship. It should be noted that many cruise ships were doing temperature checks and in-depth health screening even before many countries had reacted to Covid-19. As well, it may be in the future passengers over the age of 70 may require a medical certificate or letter from a medical professional to board.

Airports are beginning use of walk-through body sanitising machines. Further development and use of blood tests to see if a person is confirmed to have the virus will likely become widespread. This can be done in the terminal prior to embarkation, similar to what some airlines and destinations are already doing but it will require a lot of resources.

What will the cost of health or travel insurance be? This may be a potential barrier for many to return to cruising.
It would be helpful to standardised medical facilities and training requirements across all cruise ships, potentially with increased staff and more beds and equipment.

More extensive use of virtual technologies is useful. Wearable tech can go beyond the original purpose to now provide even more contactless interactions and streamline further processes. However, too much virtual interaction takes away from the sense of community so many cruisers love. Similarly, while virtual cruising has been a wonderful way to showcase and promote cruise brands and itineraries, it simply cannot replace the real experience.

Emerald Princess at Venice (Courtesy Dr Jennifer Holland)

Emerald Princess at Venice (Courtesy Dr Jennifer Holland)

Social distancing is a huge barrier. Most mega-ships are designed to maximize capacity to have the most efficient number of passengers and crew in order to generate revenue and ensure a positive guest experience. This model doesn’t work if the ships can only be filled to 30% capacity. These are fundamental issues that every pub, hotel, entertainment venue and airline is grappling with right now. How do you safely keep several hundred or thousand people together when everything was designed for a pre-Covid reality?

The social amplification of risk framework provides some insight that can guide the cruise industry. The framework explains how risks are communicated, and how risks seem to increase when there is more media and public attention.
How a person perceives risk is influenced by psychological, social, cultural and institutional factors. Other factors affect how we think about a risk and this includes the volume of media coverage, how controversial the information is, where we are getting the information from and how dramatic the information is. When people are uncertain about the facts and they don’t know who to trust the risk seems to increase.

The important bit for the cruise industry is that the framework identifies there are secondary social and economic ripple effects even when a risk is decreasing. Even the though the initial risk is diminished, the ripple effects change behaviour.

Whether real or imagined, risk perceptions influence travel decisions. If the risk is too great, the purchase is abandoned. Risk is inherent in travel, and tourists accept there is a trade-off. There is always a risk something may go wrong, but the benefits outweigh the risk.

People need to feel safe on their holidays, and they don’t want to have family worry about them. Given the narrative of fear and infections on cruise ships the media has presented, the biggest barrier for passengers will be the stigma. The ripple effect potentially means a lasting image of cruise ships as connected with Covid-19.

To combat this, the cruise industry needs a stronger narrative in the media of trust and competence. More needs to be shared on the changes the industry has brought in to meet and exceed requirements to ensure safe and healthy environments for passengers and crew. CLIA and many cruise lines are doing everything they can right now to get this information out. Information reduces risk perceptions and even if the bookings are not coming in now, people will store and use this information later.

For many loyal and resilient cruisers, they are already ready to come back onboard and fully trust the cruise lines. For others who are less certain, we need to focus on an industry that will be ready to welcome vacationers back with ships that have been deep cleaned with a healthy crew and environment.

The cruise industry can also look to how other public health emergencies have been managed and draw on risk communication strategies used then. For example, during the Zika crisis, health officials developed strategies for providing accurate information on social media in direct response to the misinformation. They used the dialogue as an opportunity. Information needs to evolve during a crisis and change over time.

When they are ready to welcome visitors, it is important that local and national governments need to be involved with tourism operators, DMO’s and cruise lines to present a cooperative approach to encourage the goal of resuming operations.
No one could have predicted the current situation and it is extremely challenging to predict the future. However, we can identify specific barriers, find ways to overcome them. We can draw on what has worked in previous public health emergencies, and ultimately return to a successful and thriving cruise sector again.

(* These articles are based on the research conducted in the UK which explored the influence of risk on deciding whether or not to choose a cruise for a holiday, and examined risk in cruising in relation to physical, health, social, psychological, time-loss, opportunity-loss, performance and functional risks. Click to see Part 1Part 2 and Part 3)

ACL Drops Passenger Service Till Year-End

On Friday May 22, ACL parent Grimaldi Lines announced from its Naples passenger office that “it has been decided to suspend passenger service on ACL, G4 vessels until the end of 2020.”

Atlantic Star - In this image at Liverpool

Atlantic Star – In this image at Liverpool

After several weeks of valiantly trying to maintain its weekly passenger service between Hamburg, Antwerp and Liverpool and Halifax, New York and Baltimore, the complications caused by Covid-19 have finally made it impossible to continue. Many affected passengers have already rebooked for 2021 while those that are still booked to travel this year are being contacted now about alternative sailings.

The five ACL ships carry 12 passengers each and offer an annual capacity of 600 passengers in each direction. Earlier this year, the line often had its ships fully booked four months in advance.
Because CMA CGM has closed passenger bookings on its own North Atlantic ships, this leaves only the four ships that serve the independent Container Line route and two chartered NSB ships operating on CMA CGM’s Victory Bridge Service  carrying passengers between north Europe and the US East Coast and Gulf of Mexico.

The Hamburg-owned Independent Horizon, Independent Pursuit, Independent Spirit and Independent Vision operate an alternate weekly service between Antwerp, Southampton, Chester PA (for Philadelphia) and Wilmington NC.

Independent Pursuit

Independent Pursuit

Each ship has a different layout and fares vary from €99 to €119 per person per day plus €335 each in fees and taxes. Non-US and Canadian citizens require a full US B1/B2 visa to enter the US on this route. Sailings are scheduled from Southampton every Thursday and from Philadelphia every Wednesday.

Meanwhile, NSB’s Brussels and Buxcliff operate a 49-day round voyage from Le Havre, Antwerp, Rotterdam and Bremerhaven to Charleston and Miami, and the Mexican ports of Veracruz and Altamira, returning to Europe via Houston and New Orleans.
Each ship has two double cabins and a single and fares vary from €98 to €117 per person per day plus €318 each in fees and taxes. As NSB is a signatory to the US Visa Waiver Scheme, it is possible to enter the USA with an ESTA on this route. Sailings are scheduled from Le Havre on June 7, July 5 and July 26 and from New Orleans on June 15, July 6, August 3 and August 31.

Conti Annapurna (© Vesseltracker)

Conti Annapurna (© Vesseltracker)

By Cargo Ship From Asia To USA With An ESTA

The entry of the 101,662-ton deadweight container ship Conti Annapurna to Ocean Network Express’s EC-1 Transpacific East Coast service allows holders of ESTA’s (as opposed to full B1/B2 visas) to enter the US at Savannah, Jacksonville, Charleston or Norfolk on her round voyages to and from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China and Hong Kong.

The full rotation is Savannah (day 0), Jacksonville (day 2), Charleston (day 3), Norfolk (day 5), Punta Manzanillio (day 12), Balboa (day13), Tokyo (day 35), Kobe (day 36), Pusan (day39), Kaohsiung (day 42), Xiamen (day 43), Hong Kong (day 44), Yantian (day 45), Shanghai (day 48), Pusan (day 50), Tokyo (day 53) Punta Manzanillo (day 72), Savannah (day 77).

Ocean Network Express's EC-1 Transpacific East Coast service

Ocean Network Express’s EC-1 Transpacific East Coast service

The sailing dates from Asia on the present voyage are: Hong Kong May 21, Shanghai May 25, Tokyo May 30. And from North America: Savannah June 23, Jacksonville June 25, Charleston June 27, Norfolk June 30. Thence every 77 days thereafter.

While port to port bookings are available, the fare for the full 77-day round voyages varies between €7,580 and €9,120 per person depending on the cabin booked.

(Kevin Griffin is managing director of The Cruise People Ltd and a director of specialist cruise operator Culture Cruises Ltd, both of London, England. For further information concerning cruises mentioned in this article readers can visit his blog)

(Dr Jennifer Holland recently completed her PhD at the University of Brighton. Her thesis explored tourists’ perceptions of risk in ocean cruising and provides practical implications for industry. Jennifer holds a BA (University of Alberta, 2000) and MTour (University of Otago, 2004), and has been involved in cruising and tourism for 17 years. She has worked for Royal Caribbean, Princess Cruises and Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, among others. Her research on risk in cruising has recently been featured on the BBC, CNA, and Skynews. email: @jenniholland14

(See the last columns)