Virgin Voyages’ Scarlet Lady is a brand-new ship, part of a brand-new cruise line and will have brand-new health protocol when it finally hits the high seas on Oct. 16 for its “soft open” sailing (with a limited number of passengers on board), according to company CEO, Tom McAlpin.
The Scarlet Lady’s maiden voyage had been initially scheduled April 1 but was canceled in early March, McAlpin told USA TODAY. The Scarlet Lady’s debut was to be the cumulation of seven years of work and Virgin Voyages’ first ship’s first journey.
“We could have never predicted the extent of the global health challenge and what this would mean for travel,” he added.
Since the cruise line has not yet had its official first sailing, it has also been untouched by coronavirus, which plagued many other vessels as it infected more than eight million people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins data. And it is hoping to stay that way with new health protocol in place.
During the ship’s soft open, which will come more than six months later than planned, Virgin Voyages will continue to monitor developments onboard to determine any changes that may need to be made before Scarlet Lady’s first sailing season.
Passenger health is the number one priority onboard, according to McAlpin.
“We rolled up our sleeves with leading experts to further innovate and create an even healthier way to travel and still have an incredible vacation,” Alpin said in a release Thursday, detailing new protocols.
To create the “Voyage Well” plan, Virgin Voyages formed a “Voyage Well Expert Advisory Group,” composed of partners at AtmosAir Solutions, EcoLab, Vikand’s Dr. Bill Heymann, Global Public Health Services.
They also collaborated with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and frequently reviewed the World Health Organization’s “best practices and guidelines.”
To ensure passenger safety onboard the “Voyage Well” plan includes:
Rapid COVID-19 testing for passengers and crew pre-embarkation.
Post-sailing notification system that allows passengers and crew to report illness within 14 days of disembarking through an “ethical health tracking app,” which will be part of Virgin Voyages’ “Sailor App” for all passengers, both are still in development, according to Nirmal Saverimuttu, the company’s chief experience and commercial officer.
Pre-boarding health checks for crew and passengers.
Thermal camera technology in terminals and on board to monitor passenger and crew temperatures, though they have not yet named a partner company.
Implementing “best policies” on sanitation and social distancing on board.
Managing ship occupancy to maintain physical distancing on board.
Leveraging digital technology on board to minimize contact.
“The Band“: Virgin Voyages’ smart wearable tech that allows passengers to conduct contactless payment, unlock their cabins, pinpoint a location for the delivery of “Shake for Champagne,” make onboard purchases, pay bar tab etc. It also serves as a “VIP pass” for passengers who have booked suites to enter “Richard’s Rooftop.”
“Service Chat” on the “Sailor App” for digital assistance.
“Virtual Queues” on the “Sailor App” so people can get online for onboard features without physically lining up.
No buffet, large dining hall or communal food-sharing will be offered on board (though a buffet was never part Virgin Voyages’ original plan for Scarlet Lady).
Scarlet Lady’s design already included an HVAC system capable of pumping fresh air through the ship’s public spaces and its cabins- effectively removing any recirculated air.
But in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Virgin Voyages partnered with AtmosAir Solutions to retrofit Scarlet Lady with an air purification system that also disinfects air on board by leveraging bipolar ionization technology. The system has been tested by Microchem Laboratory and is 99.9% effective in neutralizing coronavirus.
“AtmosAir purification systems use our patented technology to attack vs. react,” Steve Levine, president and CEO of AtmosAir Solutions, told USA TODAY in a statement. “[They] are specifically designed to effectively work as a proactive agent in combating viruses, bacteria and germs.”
Philip M. Tierno, professor of microbiology and pathology at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine, told USA TODAY that the device is so effective that he had one of the devices installed in his own home four years ago.
“It is probably one of the most effective means of sanitizing or disinfecting the air in a continuous fashion,” he said.
What happens, Tierno explained, is that the ions break down the proteins that exist on the outer layer of a viral cell, bacterial cell or fungi cell, destroying it. The system, he added, would eventually eradicate surface particles as well as particles in the air.
“The only thing that it cannot do,” he said. “Is if you’re sitting next to a person that has COVID-19 and that person turns and sneezes on you, then it’s too late for anything to work.”
In a release provided by spokesperson Michelle Estevam, the cruise line clarified that these implementations are subject to change as technology continues to advance.
Virgin Voyages has also instituted a flexible cancellation policy.
“For sailings through December 16th, 2020, we’re moving final payment dates to 60 days (from 120 days) before you sail, and you can cancel up to 48 hours before your voyage and receive a 100% voyage credit,” McAlpin said. “We want you to feel confident about making plans, while knowing that if anything changes, we’re always on your side.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Virgin Voyages announces ‘Voyage Well’ health plan for Scarlet Lady ship