Outside CDC LimitsAll three of the line's ships will voluntarily sail at 75 percent capacity. But even if they were full, they would still fall outside the current sailing moratorium set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The current orders from the CDC prohibit cruise ships from sailing before July 24, or whenever approval is given to the lines' plans to rework the cruising experience to address COVID-19 concerns.But those regulations specifically apply to ships that have more than 250 combined passengers and crew. American Cruise Lines, as well as a few other small ship and river companies in the U.S., have vessels that fall under that number.
Ships Built With SpaceWhile American Cruise Lines is not necessarily a household name in cruising, the family-owned company long has been a driver in American coastal and river trips. Its fleet of 13 river and coastal vessels are built at its own company, the Chesapeake Shipbuilding Yard in Salisbury, Maryland.In the past few years, the line has released several modern-style river vessels that are modeled more on the riverboats that you might see in Europe, as opposed to paddlewheels. American Song, the vessel that the line is sending out first, is one of these modern ships; it was launched in 2018. American Harmony was built in 2019, and the coastal cruiser, American Constellation, came out in 2017. When the ships are full, they have 350 square feet of passenger space per guest. With the capacity reduction, that will increase to 450 square feet per passenger, the line said. It will also allow crew members to have private accommodations.The ships were also built with independent HVAC systems in every stateroom and lounge. While it’s unclear whether air conditioning ductwork contributes to the spread of COVID-19, the ships have no shared ducting between rooms or public spaces, the line said.The ships also have UV-C water filtration systems; while UV water filatration systems generally concentrate on keeping bacteria out of water, UV rays have been cited as a possible way to kill the virus. There's a touchless boarding and check-in process.
New Cleaning and Sanitation ProtocolsThe new health and safety guidelines put together by American Cruise Lines are some of the most detailed that have been released by a cruise line to date. They include:
- Increased time between cruises to allow for full vessel sanitation;
- Sanitation rounds to be conducted hourly, including sanitation of all touchpoints, including railings, doorknobs, elevator buttons and gangways;
- Personal protective equipment to be available at all times for guests and crew, including face shields, gloves and face masks. While the line is not saying that masks are required at all times, they note that they "may be required during certain events as situations dictate;"
- Public bathrooms will be closed. Guests will be asked to use the restrooms in their cabins;
- Hand-sanitizing stations placed throughout the ship and at the gangway before each boarding and disembarkation;
- Luggage sanitation prior to loading on the ship. Deckhands performing sanitation will wear PPE;
- Cocktails and hors d'oeuvres will be kept behind transmission barriers and passed to passengers individually. American Cruise Lines will not have buffets.