River cruises are expected to make a slow return this year as travel restrictions lift, with the likes of A-Rosa and Avalon Waterways having announced their planned resumption of sailings over the last couple of weeks.

Avalon Waterways revealed this week that it is planning to resume its river cruises in September and in preparation for its return, has developed new health and safety protocols for a post-Covid-19 world.

The river cruise line’s latest Avalon Assurance programme currently features seven categories and protocols that span across guest experience touch-points.

Avalon Rhine River Cruise

Passengers will undergo mandatory health screenings, including touch-free temperature checks and luggage disinfection, prior to onboarding.

Avalon is also introducing new technologies, including electrostatic cleaning systems and UV disinfecting systems.

Additional hand sanitiser stations will be added throughout ships, while buffet and self-serve stations will be replaced with crew services.

Cruise ship capacity will be reduced and alternative dining venues added to allow for social distancing, and guests and crew will be provided with masks, as needed or required.

Eighty per cent of Avalon Waterways cabins are panorama suites, offering guests an open-air experience on each ship, and the air is not circulated between staterooms; only within an individual stateroom and mixed with fresh, outside air.

Crew will be required to have medical screenings and certificates of health, and social distancing in crew living quarters and ongoing training in PPE use and hygiene will be implemented.

In addition, Avalon Waterways said that it is currently reviewing excursion standards and protocols with partners across the globe.

River cruises: covid-19 health and safety protocols, Avalon Waterways

Discussing the new protocols, CEO of Avalon Waterways UK, Giles Hawke, said: “The world has changed but what remains certain is our steadfast commitment to our guests’ safety, comfort and peace-of-mind.

“We have established a global health & safety team dedicated to ensuring that the cleanliness of all operations exceeds today’s standards from start-to-finish.

“We will continue to review and update our Assurance initiatives as we make the pivot back to the world’s waterways. We are looking at 1 September 2020 for that.

“While we place a spotlight on guest safety and well-being, we will also deliver to our travellers a wonderful holiday.

“An escape that invites them to take part in the joy of discovering new places, new people and new cultures – everything they already expect from an Avalon Waterways cruise.”

Uniworld Boutique River Cruises has similarly unveiled its enhanced health and safety protocols, reimagining passengers entire experience to ensure it’s ready to begin its river cruises when restrictions on travel are finally lifted.

Uniworld river cruise - venice

Along with health screenings prior to embarkation and face masks and gloves made available to guests, the luxury river cruise operator also announced that any onboard payments will be processed using a contactless payment method and credit card machines will be wiped after each pin entry.

Unlike before the outbreak of coronavirus when guests could sit where they pleased, all restaurant dining will now have reserved seating, with guests at the same table, with the same people, each day. Items that are usually shared, like bread and butter, will now be served to each person individually.

The cruise line has also reviewed its shore excursion programmes, adjusting the maximum occupancy per bus for excursions to reduce the total number of people together at one time.

Uniworld's River Countess

President and CEO of Uniworld, Ellen Bettridge, said: “As we prepare to join the world community in reopening our homes, businesses, ships and lives to one another, we have carefully reviewed protocols and procedures to ensure that the touchpoints between the people we care about the very most are managed with intention, respect and utmost care.”

“Consistently reviewing our policies to improve and enhance the safety and wellbeing of our guests is part of our DNA; what’s important right now, is the speed at which we’re able to act on new information, particularly from local authorities where we cruise.

“We have worked on internal processes to help our team embrace and thrive during crucial moments when the need to pivot quickly is imperative.

“The world is changed and as we start to welcome guests just beginning to step back into travel, we want them to know that we understand and are anticipating their concern and taking careful and deliberate steps to protect their safety, health and wellbeing – which will come in the form of a broad smile instead of a handshake.”

Danube river cruise

This week, WTTC announced a range of new worldwide health and safety measures to restart the sector following the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and said that separate measures for the aviation and cruise industries will be unveiled in due course.

WTTC has said it is working closely with leading cruise body CLIA to devise the new protocols, which will be for both ocean and river cruises.

In an interview with our sister title Cruise Trade News, CLIA UK and Ireland director Andy Harmer explained that the cruise sector is working through an industry restart and plan and while it is a “complicated business”, he is confident that the industry will be able to adapt to the changes.

He said: “One of the great things about the cruise industry is our ability to adapt. We are very innovative, we invest a lot in our customer experience in our technology and if you compare ourselves to some other leisure and hospitality businesses, we go way beyond in terms of protocols.”

Visit uniworld.com and avalonwaterways.com for more information.