Taking to the river with A-ROSA River Cruises

Rebecca Barnes asks Lucia Rowe about A-ROSA River Cruises’ recovery plans post-Covid-19

Taking to the river with A-ROSA River Cruises
A-ROSA’s river ships have already returned to rivers in Europe with enhanced health ad safety protocols

The cruise industry has had to weather a substantial storm since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, when ports from Southampton to Seattle closed and ships everywhere were grounded while the world went into lockdown.

Like a handful of other river cruise lines, A-ROSA had just started its 2020 season when the pandemic began to make its presence felt worldwide in early March. However, the line had the foresight to understand the importance of preparing for what was ahead and quickly adopted new protocols.

“When the crisis fully hit, and once all guests and crew were safely back home, we had time to develop these enhanced protocols even further and get ready for when we could restart operations,” says Lucia Rowe, managing director of A-ROSA River Cruises.

The protocols include an extensive new health and hygiene concept that enhances existing systems – this was created by the A-ROSA Care Team which comprises specialists including the Robert Koch Institute in Germany and Jens Tülsner, founder and CEO of Marine Medical Solutions. Tülsner has also been appointed as doctor for the entire fleet.

Measures include enhanced cleaning procedures; the wearing of face coverings in some public spaces; pre-screening and temperature checks prior to embarkation; meals served at tables; and reduced excursion participant numbers. The fleet is already equipped with an air refreshment system that ensures cabins and public spaces operate using separate air supplies.

Guests will notice that restaurant, lounge and sundeck layouts have been changed to facilitate social distancing. Buffets have been replaced with seated served dinners in two sittings, and drinks will be served at tables rather than the bar.

And when the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office gave the green light for river cruising on 16 July, Rowe and her team began preparing to welcome British guests back onboard.

“Cruise Lines International Association has helped immensely by bringing the entire river cruise sector together and helping work out the restart strategy,” she explains. “Our cruises have already resumed on the Douro, Rhine, Danube and Rhone and we can’t wait for our UK guests to return.” Ashore, the destinations along the rivers where A-ROSA operates have been preparing for months to welcome back visitors, in collaboration with their relevant authorities.

Concepts onboard will work hand-in-hand with regional health protocol and ports of call. Working with its excursion partners, A-ROSA will reduce group sizes, ask guests to wear masks on coaches and ensure that audio equipment and bikes are disinfected after every use.

There has been much talk on how cruising in the ‘new normal’ would be received, but according to Rowe, initial feedback from guests and crew alike has been very positive.

“Everyone seems to be taking more time to enjoy everything and they are grateful that, after the hard months of lockdown, they are able to take a holiday at all,” she confirms. “Many of our guests are quite emotional when they get back onboard and so very grateful to be back sailing on the rivers.”

Looking ahead, Rowe believes the industry will bounce back and people will appreciate time away with their loved ones even more.

“Holidays will become even more treasured – a real highlight each year and something travellers look forward to more than ever,” she says. “The industry, I know, will understand how to make this important and valuable time even more special for its customers.”

Rowe is also confident that A-ROSA’s new E-Motion ship, set to be the largest on the Rhine when it launches in March 2022, will offer the space to meet social distancing requirements should they still be necessary.

“We are very much looking forward to our new ship being launched in the not too distant future and we are proud and excited that it is aimed at the multi-generational market,” she says. “More than ever, people will want to go away with their extended families and explore the beauty of Europe’s rivers, cities and landscapes together.”

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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By Rebecca Barnes
24 November 2020

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