(10:35 a.m. EDT) -- Princess Cruises is detailing several new health protocols for its ships, the first in a series of new guidelines it expects to roll out when cruises return to service. Among the more noteworthy elements are possible legal penalties for anyone who is found to have falsified the pre-boarding medical questionnaire and restricting access to boarding for anyone with a severe chronic medical condition.
The move follows that of Asia-based cruise line, Genting, which put in strict new health guidelines earlier this month.
"Our health monitoring, screening and operational protocols are designed to be both rigorous and flexible, and we are aggressively adapting to changes as they occur," Princess said in a statement listing the new guidelines.
"We are working closely with public health officials, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), to define and implement best practices to protect the health of our guests and crew as it relates to COVID-19."
The new protocols are divided into pre-cruise, embarkation and onboard. Many of the guidelines are a continuation of the protocols put into place in late February and early March.
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Princess Cruises will increase its global monitoring of COVID-19 outbreaks and will proactively cancel or modify itineraries to impacted areas.
The line will also maintain its policy of refusing boarding to booked travelers who meet a variety of criteria including anyone who has been in contact with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19; anyone suffering from a fever or flu-like symptoms prior to embarkation; and anyone with underlying severe chronic medical conditions.
Guests and crew members who meet these criteria will be unable to sail, with booked passengers receiving a full cruise credit or refund.
On embarkation day, cruisers can expect a robust health screening, starting with mandatory thermal scanning of all guests and crew. Anyone presenting with a fever or flu-like symptoms will be denied boarding, regardless of their recent travel history. All cruisers who are denied boarding due to sickness will be issued a full cruise credit or refund.
Cruisers will also be required to fill out a new health declaration prior to boarding specifically designed to screen for COVID-19. During the cruise, anyone found to have falsified their answers will be disembarked at the next port of call. Additionally, anyone who does not disclose symptoms of illness may face legal consequences.
Cruise Terminals will also undergo heightened sanitation on embarkation and disembarkation days. Protocols will include a thorough cleaning of all hand-touched surfaces before and after each sailing, as well as fogging each terminal before embarkation and debarkation.
Hand sanitizers will be placed throughout the terminal, and all passengers with pre-cruise transfers will be provided hand sanitizer before boarding buses and transfer shuttles from airports and hotels to the cruise terminal. All buses and shuttles will be sanitized prior to anyone getting onboard.
Where possible, food service will be by crew members, with crew manning all food stations, including the buffet and ice cream machines. If not possible due to layout restrictions -- many Princess buffets on new or refurbished ships have serving islands to reduce traffic, making crew service nearly impossible -- dedicated personnel will be posted to monitor these stations and ensure they are cleaned and sanitized regularly.
In any self-service areas that remain, serving utensils will be replaced on a frequent basis.
Crew members will also be stationed at all hand-washing sinks and/or hand sanitizing dispensers at the entrances to all dining rooms to direct passengers to wash their hands before entering.
Sanitation and Cleaning
Princess has established additional sanitation and cleaning measures for all its ships including:
- Frequent sanitizing of tables, chairs, menus and other surfaces in restaurants and bars before and after service hours;
- More frequent open deck sanitation of sun loungers, outdoor furniture, and mini-golf and sports equipment;
- Additional sanitizing of frequently hand-touched surfaces in all public areas and lounges, restaurants, lobbies, corridors, elevators, handrails, public phones, counters, public displays, medical centers, gangways, casino chips, games, slot machines, fitness machines, children's toys and security screening equipment;
- Stateroom surfaces and fixtures will be thoroughly cleaned twice daily with particular attention to door handles, bathrooms and frequently touched surfaces;
- During instances that guests or crew display flulike symptoms, their staterooms will receive additional deep cleaning;
- Additional hand sanitizers will be placed in highly trafficked guest and crew locations;
- The temperature in all washers and dryers will be increased for enhanced disinfection of laundered goods, including bedding, tablecloths, towels and napkins;
- Guest launderettes will also be set to the highest washer/dryer temperature settings;
- More frequent cleaning and sanitation of public restrooms;
- All public lounges and restroom doors will be propped open to reduce door handle touchpoints;
- Increased number of hand sanitizer dispensers during water shuttle operations.
Princess will also be increasing its crew training to reinforce frequent hand-washing and to encourage crew to avoid hand contact with guests. Crew will also be encouraged to report guests who present signs of illness (coughing, sneezing, runny nose, etc.).
There will also be an increased supply of personal protection equipment onboard all ships, and on some voyages, guest-facing crew may be required to wear masks.
All crew who exhibit symptoms of acute respiratory illness will be required to visit the medical center onboard for a complimentary medical consultation; guests are "strongly encouraged" to do the same. Princess will provide a medical screening and, when appropriate, test for COVID-19 for anyone who displays symptoms of influenza, respiratory illness or fever.