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Increased sanitation protocols will include twice-daily fogging of public areas. Here, the Grand Lobby Bar of American Duchess

American Queen Steamboat Co. taps Ochsner Health, details new safety protocols

American Queen Steamboat Co. is using Ochsner Health's Safe to Return Employer Solutions on its paddlewheelers, along with new technologies like MXP Protect and Protexus Electrostatic Sprayers.

The company shared highly detailed information about its new health procedures.

Ochsner will conduct assessments of American Queen, American Duchess and American Countess and work with AQSC to implement disease prevention and mitigation strategies across the fleet. The program includes real-time access to infectious disease experts within the Ochsner Health system, which serves Louisiana, Mississippi and the Gulf South.

Partner for Pacific Northwest vessel TBA

The company plans to announce a healthcare partner for its Pacific Northwest itineraries on American Empress in the coming weeks.

As part of Ochsner's Safe to Return Employer Solutions, it will reassess the AQSC vessels on a monthly basis and provide updated recommendations as needed based on scientific data and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.

Virtual access to experts

Other services will include offering a Virtual Employer Clinic, powered by TytoCare, so employees and passengers can talk to a healthcare professional virtually, without going ashore. The partnership also will provide access to infectious disease experts within the Ochsner Health system.

Ochsner Health personnel will oversee the pre-boarding screening process and assessments for all itineraries embarking in New Orleans. AQSC said it will identify healthcare partners for its other ports.

Fleetwide protocols

Along with the Ochsner partnership, AQSC unveiled elevated health and safety protocols that will be implemented when its vessels resume operations. These include pre-cruise screenings, crew screenings, updated boarding processes, increased sanitation measures, enhanced technologies and an on-board tele-health capability. Technology highlights include MXP Protect, which incorporates the use of thermal imaging.

Sister brand Victory

Victory Cruise Lines, operated by AQSC, will implement similar health and safety protocols when it resumes its operations on the Great Lakes and Canadian Maritimes.

Pre-cruise screening

Prior to embarkation, all passengers and crew will be required to complete a health and safety questionnaire and a medical travel screening survey. At the pre-cruise hotel, medical personnel will perform a health screening of each guest, including a temperature check, and will deny boarding to anyone who may pose a health risk.

The 24-hour window between the pre-cruise hotel stay and vessel embarkation allows the AQSC and Victory crews and passengers time to make any necessary adjustments following the pre-cruise screening. No guests or crew will be allowed to check in directly without having completed these screenings.

Thermal cameras at boarding

Once passengers and crew are cleared during the pre-cruise screening process, embarkation will be conducted via one controlled access point where thermal cameras will take the temperature of each person, supplementing the manual temperature checks completed in the pre-cruise screening. An on-board medical representative will conduct the gangway screening, complete the health and safety survey and provide reports to the master and hotel director.

AQSC and Victory will require a 24-hour notice for anyone who needs access to the vessel and has not been pre-screened during hotel screening, including travelers, crew, visitors and contractors.

Screening/monitoring during the cruise

Trained staff will maintain protocols and observe passengers and crew for symptoms throughout the voyage. The master and medical representative will respond to medical calls, practice quarantine procedures and use shoreside medical facilities as needed. Anyone who has an elevated temperature, shows signs or symptoms of illness or who vessel management determine needs further assessment will be sent directly to a local medical care partner for evaluation and testing. Anyone testing positive for any contagious condition will not be allowed to rejoin the vessel.

The vessels’ access points will be monitored and controlled at all times. Using MXP Protect, AQSC will be able to monitor critical areas of operation with thermal scanning. All passengers and crew will be monitored by thermal imaging when returning to the vessel in addition to random manual screening. In the event of a confirmed positive case, AQSC and Victory will manually screen all individuals coming and going from the vessel.

Additional medical resources

In addition to Ochsner Health's virtual consultations with a physician, each vessel in the AQSC and Victory fleet will carry a certified medical representative to assist travelers with urgent medical care, implement quarantine procedures and coordinate shoreside medical assistance. In an emergency, AQSC and Victory have the ability to quickly transfer anyone to emergency medical services ashore by coordinating pick-up at municipal landings and docking facilities.

Public room/stateroom cleaning

Increased sanitation of all contact surfaces such as handrails, tables, chairs, desks, work surfaces, door handles, telephones and elevator controls — both front and back of house — will be conducted hourly with an all-chlorine solution that meets or exceeds Environmental Protection Agency standards. All public and crew spaces will be fogged twice daily and multi-purpose disinfecting wipes will be made available in staterooms.

Cabin staff will clean and sanitize all surfaces of the room and use an EPA-approved disinfectant spray, as well as Protexus Electrostatic Sprayers to fog staterooms daily.

Dining/bar protocols

Self-service buffets are suspended, and waiters will be stationed at buffets to serve food. Crew will minimize guest touch points by manually entering cabin numbers rather than using guest swipe cards and by replacing communal items such as salt/pepper pots, sugar bowls and butter bowls with single-serve packets.

Tables, chairs and countertops will be sanitized on the hour or when vacated by the guest, and menus will be printed on single-use paper and discarded after each use. All table items will be removed each time a table is vacated. All crockery, glassware and cutlery will be washed even if unused.

In the bars, self-service areas are now suspended, and individual bowls of bar snacks will be available upon request. Increased sanitation in accordance with the restaurant guidelines will be implemented.

On the open decks, the chief officer will arrange for all deck rails, swimming pools, the gangway and other external hard points to be sanitized at least every hour when in use, with the gangway sanitation occurring every half-hour when in use.

Shore excursions

A reduced number of passengers will be transported on each motor coach, targeting a maximum 52% capacity, to allow for adequate social distancing. Bus seats, windows and handrails will be sanitized with an EPA-recommended solution each day before boarding and every hour when in use. Liquid hand sanitation dispensers will be available at the door. All shore excursions will be conducted within the guidelines of the local municipalities visited.

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