Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ approach to service, decor, cuisine, ship design, onboard facilities and all inclusive fares struck the right balance for many Fine Travel’s luxury cruise clients. The announcement that they are returning to the seas from September will be of interest to New Zealand travellers as we look ahead to the potential for UK / Europe travel in 2022, and it provides an insight into the effectiveness of their Covid-19 policies.
There is no avoiding the reaction that it still feels a bit early for cruise lines to return to the sea – although the first itinerary is scheduled for 11 September 2021. Confined spaces, shared dining and activity areas and questions around the role of air conditioning in the spread of Covid will give even the most ardent cruise fan reason to pause.
Where cruise lines like Ponant have the inherent advantage in their Covid strategy of operating smaller ships with fewer guests (although as you will read below Regent Seven Seas has introduced a guest limit) and a greater focus on shore excursions than on-ship activities, the ships of the Regent Seven Seas fleet are considerably larger with more restaurants, casinos and onboard activities. We therefore review Regent Seven Seas’ Health and Safety Policy ahead of its return to the seas.
The First Regent Seven Seas Itineraries
Regent Seven Seas has announced the following timetable for the return of its fleet in 2021 and 2022:
Seven Seas Splendor – The first ship to return to the seven seas, departing from London (Southampton) on 11 September 2021, sailing through Europe and the Mediterranean during her inaugural season.
Seven Seas Explorer – First sailing will depart on 16 October 2021, from Venice. She will complete two previously published Mediterranean voyages before crossing the Atlantic to begin a newly created winter Caribbean season.
Seven Seas Mariner – Following her dry-dock, Seven Seas Mariner will return to sailing on a previously published 18 December 2021 itinerary, sailing from Miami to San Francisco where she will begin her epic 2022 World Cruise on 5 January.
Seven Seas Navigator – Will return beginning 6 January 2022 from Miami with her previously published Southern Caribbean sailings, which include multiple round-trip Barbados voyages.
Seven Seas Voyager – Returns with five new Mediterranean voyages, the first departing from Barcelona on 15 February 2022, before commencing her previously published itineraries exploring the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.
It is not a full return of all itineraries and regions with Regent Seven Seas President and CEO, Jason Montague, sharing:
Our intention is to preserve our originally published itineraries as much as possible, but with much regret, we have had to cancel further sailings, including Seven Seas Explorer’s upcoming Asia-Pacific season and Seven Seas Voyager’s upcoming Africa and South America sailings.
Regent Seven Seas’ Covid Safety Policies
It is interesting to look back on pre-Covid images from onboard cruise ships and wonder if it will be the same again. For the safety of its guests and crew, Regent Seven Seas has a comprehensive Covid policy called SailSafe which has been designed and implemented by a dedicated Health and Wellness Council (lead by a former head of the US FDA). Regent Seven Seas accepts that this policy will continue to evolve and the cruise line should be consulted prior to booking. At the time of writing highlights of the policy includes:
Vaccination – All guests and crew must be vaccinated at least two weeks prior to boarding.
Testing – All guests and crew will be required to take a Covid-19 antigen test and for that test to be negative before boarding.
Health Screening – Completion of a health questionnaire and touchless temperature check.
Socially Responsible check-in – Staggered check-in and greater use of electronic signatures.
Onboard Spacing and Meals
Reduced guest occupancy – Initially fewer guests will be allowed onboard to allow for greater social distancing.
Contactless food service – Contactless food and beverage service will be provided across all ships with service staff stationed ship-wide, including all restaurants and lounges, and shared use items will be removed where possible.
Hand sanitation – Guests will be required to engage in frequent hand washing
Onboard monitoring – Temperature checks and symptom screening will continue onboard.
Continuous shipwide cleaning and disinfection – Comprehensive enhanced cleaning and sanitation protocols have been implemented throughout the cruise experience. The 24/7 prevention schedule features continual disinfection of public areas and high-traffic touch points using EPA-approved disinfectants. Guest accommodations will receive intensive non-toxic microbial disinfection daily.
Upgraded Medical Grade Air Filters – To provide cleaner air for guests RSSC is strategically installing medical-grade air filters of the highest filtration grade, MERV 13 or HEPA according to the type of HVAC system installed on board. The upgraded H13 HEPA air filters are capable of removing 99.9% of airborne pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus), the virus that causes COVID-19. A new air treatment technology, bio-polar ionization, has been adopted to continuously disinfect the air in occupied spaces.
Enhanced Onboard Medical Services – RSSC is improving its onboard medical capabilities with additional staffing relative to capacity and enhanced facilities. This includes an increase in intensive care unit capacity, new and upgraded equipment, onshore medical institution partnerships, telemedicine capabilities and additional robust consultation and treatment options. Onboard medical centers are abundantly stocked with common prescription medications, remedies, and virus-testing equipment. Complimentary consultations and treatments are provided for respiratory illnesses as well as dedicated isolation accommodations should the need arise.
Dedicated Public Health Officer – Each ship will have a dedicated Public Health Officer on board. This expert is responsible for the oversight of all outbreak prevention initiatives. They will oversee the day-to day sanitation and cleanliness of all public areas and accommodations. Each ship will also have an Infectious Disease Prevention Officer on board.
Safety Ashore – RSSC is constantly monitor the health environment across the globe and will modify or cancel itineraries to affected areas as needed. They’re partnering with local destinations and tour operators to extend their comprehensive health & safety protocols to shore. Face coverings may be required in certain settings to comply with local requirements, for example in terminals for embarkation and disembarkation or at ports of call. RSSC will continue to monitor public health guidance, including from the CDC, at the time of your voyage and modify requirements accordingly.
Disembarkation Scenarios – RSSC has developed a thorough mobilization and response plan focused on providing medical treatment, collaborating with local authorities and coordinating safe passage home for all guests and crew should the need arise. We have established relationships with onshore medical institutions and enhanced our telemedicine consultation capabilities.
Proof of the Pudding…
The Regent Seven Seas Health and Safety protocols do appear to be extremely thorough and in line with the standards that past guests will expect from this luxury cruise line. While these policies appear robust on paper, until the ships actually return to the seas with passengers, we will not have a definitive answer on their efficacy.
As we discuss in our article on whether we will see 2022 UK / Europe Earlybird airfares, it is unlikely that we will see our borders open until 2022. As we approach the end of 2021, Fine Travel cruise clients may be in the position of understanding when our borders may open, if there will be discounted airfares to the UK and Europe in 2022 and whether the cruise lines have been successful in implementing their Covid-19 Health and Safety Policies.