In a BA Cruise Bulletin today, the Miami-based firm noted most cruisers today are adults, and introducing large numbers of unvaccinated children in future is bound to create another set of issues from today. Also, reduced occupancy is enabling some ships to operate; current models would be hard-pressed to work at full occupancies, BA President/CEO Luis Ajamil said.
Observations from the restart so far
Other observations: Staffing levels in all positions are an issue; in most cases cruise lines are controlling the protocols, not the ports; and operations are fluctuating from week to week and line to line, creating issues with the layout of spaces and processes.
Ajamil noted most ports are using the terminals as previously designed and trying to incorporate testing, vaccination checks and other types of inspections as best they can, while ports with multiple terminals are currently using only the larger ones for the restart.
Some cruise lines, he observed, have not been successful in scheduling passenger arrivals to particular embarkation time blocks that would allow a smooth-flowing process.
Capacity ramp-up concerns
Ajamil is concerned that with lines reporting solid bookings and planning capacity increases throughout fall and winter, 'it is easy to predict countless hold-ups occurring at the ports given the forecasts.'
While many are just hoping for the best, viewing the pandemic as a temporary situation that will go away in a matter of months, and therefore hoping to simply adapt processes temporarily, BA advised ports plan for the worst and adapt accordingly.
Permanent changes will be needed
'Many are realizing that COVID will be with us for quite some time and possibly for many years to come,' Ajamil cautioned. 'Therefore, the operations need to be adjusted to create a system of cruise boarding, operation and disembarking that adapts to this reality; permanent changes will be needed, not just shuffling the chairs on the deck.'
BA's simulation studies have found the smaller and more compact the terminal, the more difficulties, and the terminals might not be able to operate at all. The prescribed timing of passenger arrivals for embarkation is essential, Ajamil said. As well, hands-free and touchless systems need to be incorporated at all steps. And the sequence of testing and checking versus security, check-in and boarding needs to be reshuffled and will be controlled mainly by the waiting spaces needed for any testing results.
BA is assisting ports, cruise lines and terminal operators by using its simulator tool to analyze facility design and operation scenarios. The simulation provides visual and analytical statistics to assess and address bottlenecks and help optimize passenger flows and terminal capacity under the new health protocols.