How safe is a 'seacation' cruise?

Dream Cruises announced this week that it will be restarting its 'seacation' cruises from Hong Kong. But how can we be sure there won’t be a repeat of last year’s negative cruising headlines?

Genting Dream will return to Hong Kong in June to prepare for passenger sailings in July.


Despite the events of 2020, demand for cruising is higher than ever. So high in fact that an around-the-world cruise by Oceania Cruises sold out in just one day earlier this year.


The 180-day sailing departs San Francisco in January 2023 and takes in 33 countries on four continents, including three full days cruising Antarctica. It stops at 27 islands and 96 ports and sails three oceans and 14 seas, crossing the equator no fewer than four times. It also provides guests with access to more than 60 UNESCO World Heritage sites.


“The quick uptake from our loyal repeat guests and new first-time guests alike underscores the tremendous pent-up demand for immersive, destination-focused cruises,” said Bob Binder, Oceania’s president.


But perhaps word is getting around that, done right, cruising could be one of the safest ways to holiday as we exit global lockdowns.


Oceania takes advice from its Healthy Sail Panel which is made up of experts in public health, infectious diseases, hospitality and marine operations. Protocols now include daily fogging of suites, staterooms and public spaces, medical grade air filters and a dedicated public health officer.


Flushed with the success of its ‘cruises to nowhere’ in Singapore and Taiwan, Genting’s Star Cruises has announced plans to restart cruises from Penang from mid-May. Star Pisces will become the first ship to resume sailings in Malaysia, embarking on a two-night ‘Langkawi Escape’ and a series of one-night ‘Straits of Malacca’ adventures.


Covid health protocols include passenger testing before boarding, health screening processes as passengers board, strict crew quarantine procedures and increased disinfection and sanitation protocols in guest cabins and public spaces. Social distancing is enforced in public spaces and the fleet’s ships are installed with 100% external fresh air filtration systems that supply all cabins and public spaces.


World Dream has been sailing safely out of Singapore since late 2020.


The Penang-based cruises offer Malaysians another ‘staycation’ option for all ages while international travel remains off the table. Those headed for Langkawi will be allowed ten hours of port time to enjoy the island, although guests heading to Malacca will be able to “see all types of vessels in the Straits of Malacca” from the safety of the ship.


Genting is now something of an old-hand at safe Covid cruising, having completed almost six months worth of incident-free ‘Super Seacation’ sailing in Singapore with Dream Cruises. In March, World Dream welcomed aboard Singapore’s 100,000th cruise passenger since the pilot cruise programme began in the city last November.


“Having pioneered the safe pilot cruises in Singapore, we're excited to be part of this important milestone to celebrate Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore’s 100,000th cruise passenger,” said Michael Goh, president of Dream Cruises. “We’re also proud to announce that World Dream recently became the first cruise ship in the world to receive a three-year Certification in Infection Prevention - Maritime from DNV (an international classification and advisory body for the maritime industry).”


The ship already holds CruiseSafe Certification by Singapore Tourism Board and DNV.

Royal Caribbean deployed Quantum of the Seas for no port of call sailings Singapore last December. The cruise operator says it has taken “every effort” to keep guests and crew safe with a comprehensive set of health and safety measures that adhere to the CruiseSafe Certification standards set out by Singapore Tourism Board. They include testing and screening, upgraded heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, stringent cleaning practices, reduced guest capacity and enhanced medical care onboard.

“Our close partnership with the Singapore government has played an instrumental role in the success of these pilot cruises and we remain committed to safeguarding the health and safety of our guests and crew,” said Angie Stephen, managing director Asia-Pacific at Royal Caribbean International.


Genting Dream's Zodiac Theatre undergoes a thorough 'Covid clean'.


Such has been the success of the programme, Royal Caribbean has announced that it will be extending its Singapore cruise season until June 21.


When Genting Dream resumes commercial 'seacation' sailings in July, there will be a raft of Covid safety measures in place. All crew must be vaccinated and in addition will be tested every two weeks. Guests must also be fully vaccinated and children must be able to present a negative PCR test result. The ship will sail at 50% of capacity and all Hong Kong government regulations will be followed in addition to Dream Cruises' own protocols.


Ultimately it will be passengers who decide whether the additional Covid restrictions make a seacation worth the effort. But as Asia moves into its second summer of lockdown, a change of horizon could be just what we're all looking for.


Stay up to date with all the latest travel news in Asia Pacific, Indian Ocean and the Middle East by subscribing to the free weekly AFT Newsletter.