FCCA Travel & Cruise Magazine ~ 3rd Quarter 2021

In the second-quarter magazine, we talked about the measures that are needed to ensure a successful return of cruise, mainly about preparing your stakeholders, communicating with your community, and helping your frontlines be ready. In this article, we talk about the best practices and lessons learned shared with us by those FCCA members with successful first calls in the Caribbean and Central America.

Aquila surveyed FCCA member destinations, ports, tour operators and cruise teams with two main questions on what ports and operators did well in the destinations they visited. It is incredible how aligned the responses were among all the groups. Here are the initial responses to our informal survey.

  1.  With the cruise restart in your destination, what is the best thing you did in preparation or on the day? What made you say “I’m so glad we did that”?

“By far the most important thing we did was to take advantage of the many months that we were shut down and waiting for cruising to The Bahamas to resume. We met constantly as a team to evaluate our operation and implement necessary changes, we provided ongoing education and training for our entire team to ensure that they would be ready to meet the new demands, and we engaged throughout that period with our cruise partners to understand what their requirements were and to provide them with the assurance that Blue Lagoon Island is up for the challenge to provide a safe and fun excursion for their passengers.” Jessica Robertson, Public Relations Manager Blue Lagoon Island.

“Once Puerto Progreso has been confirmed for the reopening of cruise ship activities, we were very satisfied with the preparation we had; training and certifying service providers, especially regarding sanitary and biosafety protocols. Having created a group of Friends of Health for the care of passengers and collaborators, this group oversaw strolling the areas where passengers move, from the cruise terminal to the beach area, with signs recalling the sanitary measures that must be respected, in addition to providing face masks and sanitizing gel. It has given us very good results and it is a wow factor that they cannot find in any other destination they visit.”  Raúl Paz / Yucatan Tourism Board

“The most important thing we did was preparing our team – the training, the communication, understanding why we do certain things and why it’s important. Our team is the biggest difference. And it’s the continuous chain of communication with the Shorex teams onboard the ship.” Sharlise Croes, Fofoti Tours. See Aquila’s full interview with Sharlise at https://www.youtube.com/c/AquilaCenterforCruiseExcellence

I would say the best thing that was done in port is ensuring that the tour operators were aware of company’s covid protocols which made the guests more confident in our product and that we genuinely care about their safety. (Cruise Line)

We are glad we worked with our operators to ensure we had enough tour variety to offer guests in port and wherever possible to include a safe shopping experience. (Cruise Line)

A big plus for us was promoting information (such as the island map) in a digital format. We did this with a QR code along with a display so passengers can pick up a map on their own. (Destination)

Coordination between the port and the tour operators was key to our success.  The port of Nassau had a meeting at the port to review protocols and dispatching areas with the tour operators.  As the port is under construction during return to service, it was key to a successful operation. (Cruise Line)

  • What was your biggest lesson learned?

Flexibility.  Even with all of the best laid plans, changes are bound to happen, sometimes, within hours of the call.  It is important to have the ability to amend programs quickly and adhere to local protocols. We have never used the word “Fluid” so much in one year. (Cruise Line)

We learned that human nature is unpredictable, and we find passengers and collaborators reluctant to respect the mandatory protocols for the protection not only of our community, but of everyone, including the guests. It is important that, despite the resistance, we keep doing our job to make each arrival a safe destination. (Destination)

The biggest lesson this global pandemic has taught us is that as a team and as individuals we have to be prepared to constantly reassess the way we are operating, both in terms of providing a top excursion product and in terms of keeping our team and our guests safe. This virus and the requirements to operate change constantly and anyone not prepared to change with it will be left behind. (Tour Operator)

The biggest lesson learned is that communication is very vital and never just assume and if not sure always ask for help. (Cruise Line)

We learned that passengers still require and want face to face information. Don’t assume everyone avoids interaction. (Destination)

The expectations continue to be high, but the collaboration between the cruise community in a destination and the cruise line is now higher than ever. Cruises are sailing successfully due to a continued focus on our teams, our communication, and our collaborations. In Canada, where Aquila is based, we can’t wait to see the return to sailing in Spring. We continue to learn from all our friends in other parts of the world the best practices and lessons learned so that we too are successful when the time comes. These lessons also help Aquila continue to develop new training programs and we invite you to check our website for all those programs.

The cruise industry is returning to sail all over the world and the demand for cruising continues to rise. We have spent time reflecting, training, communicating, and investing… and now we are ready!

Beth Kelly Hatt is the President of Aquila’s Center for Cruise Excellence, the FCCA’s official training partner. Aquila’s approach to training is one of assessing the needs of a destination or operator, and developing a strategic training plan that helps raise the level of excellence throughout the destination. Contact Beth for more information at Beth@CruiseExcellence.com