Saga has claimed a cruise first by becoming the first line to secure what it has described as a "crucial" safety marker ahead of a planned resumption of cruise operations in the spring.
Maritime safety expert Lloyd’s Register has awarded Saga its Shield+ accreditation for its efforts to evidence how it can operate in a Covid-secure manner; the stamp is the highest category of health assurance offered by Lloyd’s.
The accreditation covers six key areas where health risks are greater and safety must be of paramount importance; these extend to medical treatment, Covid policy, food, onboard ventilation, accommodation and water supply.
Achieving the Shield+ standard means Saga has exceeded necessary levels of compliance in every category of the UK Chamber of Shipping’s government-backed Covid-secure cruising guidance.
Saga said the award followed "months of detailed planning", which involved designing and implementing new ship-wide procedures to meet higher standards of health and safety.
Both Saga’s new-builds, Spirit of Discovery and Spirit of Adventure, which is due to sail for the first time next May, have been accredited.
Nick Stace, chief executive of Saga’s travel division, said: "We have been working with the government, all the relevant authorities and our peers in the cruise industry to put in place all the measures needed to ensure a safe return to cruising. We believe our ships offer one of the safest places in the world to see the world."
Stace said the accreditation was an important step, that removed "one of the last barriers to a safe return for cruising".
"We know there is considerable pent-up demand from our customers for cruising," he said. "In our most recent round of cancellations, more than 80% of guests immediately rolled their booking over to a new cruise, and our guests tell us they are ready to sail.
"Being the first cruise operator to achieve Lloyd’s Register’s Shield+ accreditation is testament to the work done by all our Saga colleagues, and brings us one step closer to welcoming our guests back onboard our ships in the safest capacity possible.”
Joep Bollerman, Lloyd’s Register’s global passenger ship manager, added: “We are delighted to award our first ever Shield+ certification to Saga.
"Our new standards are based on medical science from the global health industry, including guidance from the World Health Organisation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in line with Clia.
"Shield+ provides a detailed survey and inspection regime of the key areas where health risks are elevated, which helps operators like Saga maintain the highest health standards at sea.”