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9 Things You Won’t See on Cruises Anymore

Cruises are coming back, but they certainly won't be the same.

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Cruise Ship at PhilipsburgDanny Lehman/Getty Images

Post-COVID cruises

If you’re a fan of cruises, you’ve probably been wondering when you can go on one again. Now that the world is slowly returning to normal, cruise lines have also started planning their comeback for a post–COVID-19 world, with many targeting summer dates for resuming cruises. One thing is certain, though: When you do get to ride the seas again, there will be some things you won’t be able to do on cruises at all. Here’s how cruising will look very different after COVID.

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side segment of a cruise ship with passengers on all levelsandyparker72/Getty Images

Ships filled to capacity

Even the most massive cruise ships may not be carrying as many passengers as they can and once did, according to travel journalist David Yeskel, aka The Cruise Guru. “Voyages will probably start off with about 60 percent of guest capacity in order to facilitate physical distancing requirements in dining, entertainment, and other public venues,” he told Of course, this will surely vary quite by cruise line and ship, including on the most trusted cruise line in America.

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Cruise passengers return to cruise shipsMariakray/Getty Images

A casual boarding process

One of the biggest things that will change about cruises is the boarding process. Yeskel thinks that many ships will require “staggered boarding times in the terminal to reduce crowding and waiting; a thorough health screening, including proof of COVID-19 vaccination and/or negative COVID-19 test results; proof of no obvious respiratory symptoms; and a recent travel history review” before you’re allowed to board. In fact, some cruise lines have already stated that they’ll require passengers to be vaccinated. And even once you’re on board, the cleanliness protocols won’t be over. “Travelers may have to change their clothes after boarding so that they can be cleaned,” says Terika Haynes, owner of Dynamite Travel.

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Woman on lounge chair with laptopDavid Sacks/Getty Images

Outdated technologies

Ever wished cruises would become more modern? Then you’ll be happy to know the pandemic could prompt cruises to invest in newer technologies, such as sterilization robots. “Sterilization robots already in use in other parts of the travel industry, such as hotels, could ensure hospital-level sanitation standards,” Clare Lee, a research analyst at Euromonitor International, tells CNN. In the meantime, here’s how to know which cruise lines are consistently voted the cleanest, or dirtiest, according to the CDC.

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Cruise Ship state room Doors with card slotsgrandriver/Getty Images

Key cards

Once ubiquitous, key cards are actually being phased out on cruise ships, Yeskel says. He says the devices will instead be wearable, like a bracelet or a disc, and will do a lot more than open doors—in fact, they’ll aid quite a bit with distancing and hands-free processes. “Princess Cruises’ Ocean Medallion, a quarter-sized disk, and MSC Cruises’ MSC for Me, a wristband, both work with onboard displays and smartphone apps to speed up embarkation, unlock cabin doors, locate family and friends, remotely order food and drinks by the pool, and provide way-finding for those who need directions,” he explains.

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Crew being introduced during pool deck barbecue aboard cruiseship Silver Spirit (Silversea Cruises).Holger Leue/Getty Images

Big crowds and lines

Cruise ships will definitely change some processes and rules to keep big groupings of people to a minimum. Yeskel thinks that you won’t have to wait in the traditional giant line to board the tenders that take you to ports. “That process will likely be replaced with a reservations policy to ensure an orderly procession into the tenders, which won’t be filled to capacity,” he says. So the process for signing up for shore excursions will probably be quite a bit more involved than previously. There will also be crowd-control measures on the pool deck. “Travelers won’t be able to crowd hot tubs or lounge areas,” adds Dr. Haynes.

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Captain and officers on the bridge of a ship.Andrew Peacock/Getty Images

Hanging out on the ship’s bridge

According to Willie Greer, founder of The Product Analyst, it’s possible that you won’t be allowed to tour the ship’s bridge anytime soon, unless you’re a VIP passenger—and maybe not even then. If these tours do continue, they’ll probably allow far fewer people.

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Man enjoys pipe aboard cruiseship MV Columbus (Hapag-Lloyd Cruises) during passage through islands of Mamanuca Group.Holger Leue/Getty Images

Smoking on the ship

Are you a smoker? Then it might be time to consider other travel options. “If you’re a serial smoker or vaper, then the cruise ships of today won’t be something you’ll come to appreciate, as more and more cruise lines offer fewer and fewer areas for passengers to smoke in,” says Greer. “There are even some ships that don’t allow smoking on board at all, so you better think long and hard if you want to either relax on a trip to the Bahamas or just smoke at home.” Find out some of the things you won’t be able to do on airplanes anymore.

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Ten Pound Poms on board P&O's Oriana in SydneyJames D. Morgan/Getty Images

Some traditional cruise activities

Cruises offer a variety of activities to keep passengers entertained. However, some of these activities might not be happening anymore—think karaoke. “Sharing a germ-catching microphone among numerous passengers who sing forcefully into it doesn’t exactly mesh with the CDC’s advice against spreading disease,” says Yeskel. Here are things you won’t see in airports anymore.

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dessert buffet in a cruise ship restaurantManu1174/Getty Images

The self-serve buffet

There are some things you won’t see in restaurants anymore, and the same rules apply to cruise dining. Namely guests can expect an end to the self-serve buffet. However, a full-serve buffet will still be available,” says Ilana Schattauer, owner of Life Well Cruised. Yeskel adds, “The popular and ubiquitous buffet definitely won’t go away; it will just be reinvented in a more hygienic way to satisfy guests and their all-you-can-eat cravings.” Next, learn why this cruise-lover will never stop cruising, coronavirus or not.