Windstar Cruises has committed to a holistic "Beyond Ordinary Care" program, designed to keep guests safe/healthy and ease their concerns during the pandemic.
The small-ship line will retrofit its fleet of six yachts with hospital-grade HEPA filters and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation and will employ a safe sanitization formula used in health care settings. Windstar also has a new partnership with the epidemiology department at the University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Center, known for its work in infectious disease epidemiology, to provide ongoing guidance.
Beyond Ordinary Care
“We are taking extensive measures and making multimillion-dollar investments to operate our yachts more safely in this new environment,” said Andrew Todd, CEO, Windstar Cruises. The collaboration with the Anschutz Medical Center aims to implement appropriate layers of protection to create a safe experience for guests on Windstar’s yachts, the line said in its press release today.
"Windstar’s holistic approach has multiple layers of safety at hospital grade standards and, when combined with responsible hygiene practices from guests, it’s the safest environment achievable with tech and science as we know it today,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, medical director of infection prevention at University of Colorado Hospital and professor of medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases at University of Colorado’s Anschutz Medical Center.
“When you're sailing on a Windstar yacht, your biggest worry should be how to avoid a sunburn, not getting COVID-19," said Dr. Barron. So, Windstar is making significant investments and major operational adjustments to meet the requirements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and global governmental and public health guidance.
Investments and Adjustments
Enhanced onboard cleaning protocols include crew dedicated to frequent cleaning with special attention to high touch points and public areas.
Going further, the Beyond Ordinary Care program employs proven technology and the highest-standard cleaning methods, as follows:
- The line is installing high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in the HVAC systems of all Windstar yachts; this will filter the air onboard.
- Windstar is also adding another layer of protection to sanitize/disinfect the HEPA-filtered air with UV-C light for germicidal irradiation, proven to kill coronaviruses. Once air moves through the HEPA filtration system, the air is zapped with with UV-C light (germicidal irradiation) before the air recirculates on the ship. Microbes and viruses not already trapped in the HEPA filter will be destroyed.
- The line is using EvaClean with PurTab for disinfecting surfaces via sprayers. This EPA-approved sanitizer utilizes a safe, effective formula to disinfect hard and soft surfaces throughout the ship including guest rooms, crew spaces and all public spaces.
The 148-guest Wind Spirit will be its first yacht to resume sailing on September 10, 2020 in Tahiti. Other Windstar yachts will start cruising in the Mediterranean in October and the Caribbean in November, while other ships will come online in 2021 following scheduled major renovations.
Every yacht will have the following areas sanitized regularly by dedicated crew trained and assigned to monitor and clean the ship by use of the improved sanitation products:
- Guest rooms will be sanitized before each cruise departure
- Public spaces—lobbies, restrooms, open deck areas, restaurants, public sitting areas and other spaces—will be disinfected before each cruise departure and then regularly during each cruise
- Crew quarters will be cleaned and sanitized often
- Medical clinic and other wellness areas will be frequently sanitized
Todd stressed that the cruise line, working with health experts and following the guidelines of the CDC, has carefully chosen cleaning and sanitation methods that have been shown to be effective against coronaviruses, as well as many other illness-causing microorganisms.
In addition, "Windstar operates small yachts that visit ports and waterways that large cruise ships simply can’t access,” said Todd. The yachts carry from 148 to 342 guests. “There are major advantages to smaller ships besides less tonnage and passengers," he said. "Let’s face it, cleaning and purifying a 342-passenger ship is logistically easier than a 5,000 passenger ‘city at sea.’”
Pre-Trip Guest Protocols
As part of the multi-layered approach, new pre-trip protocols for guests include a pre-departure questionnaire and a request to wear masks when traveling to and from the ships.
Each guest will receive a health screening prior to embarkation. Staggered arrival and departure times at check-in and disembarkation in ports will reinforce social distancing between guests.
Once onboard, guests will find personalized service by dining staff in all venues, expanded dining times and seating arranged to provide more space between diners. The outdoor, top-deck BBQ will still be held with crew on hand to serve guests.
Additional al fresco restaurants and complimentary room service (the main restaurant dinner menu will be available via room service) increase dining options for all. Main dining venues will operate at 65 percent capacity, while specialty venues will operate at 60 percent.
Crew, who will also be COVID-19 (PCR) tested before joining their assignment, will wear masks and instead of the usual embrace or handshake, look for the new “Windstar Wave” hand signal—a W made with one’s index fingers and thumbs. Temperature measurements will be required twice daily for crew.
Safety standards established onboard will carry over to shoreside experiences. Tenders, motor coaches and smaller boats will operate at 50 percent capacity and will be cleaned between each use.
Windstar will also expand medical staff on board, as well as increase crew training in cleaning practices, social distancing, and emergency response protocols.
In addition, ports will be continually evaluated for safety and changes made as needed.
For more information, visit www.windstarcruises.com.