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Quark Launches New Best in Class Safety Protocols

Greenland Landscape

“We will have real-time COVID-19 testing using the gold standard of testing, we are sparing no expense on testing and protocols to create a COVID-safe environment,” said Thomas Lennartz, vice president of sales at Quark Expeditions, one of the major players in the expedition cruise market.

Coming off a Black Friday sale that blew away company expectations, Josh Weidman, director of product, told Cruise Industry News the company was preparing to operate its Arctic season starting in May under its new S.A.F.E. COVID policy that has looked at every aspect of the experience.

Calling it a comprehensive program, Quark will require a negative PCR test prior to a guest’s arrival, which is to a hotel ahead of a charter flight to the ship for most Arctic sailings.

At that hotel, Quark will test all guests again using RT-LAMP (Reverse Transcription Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification) testing.

Independent labs have verified that the testing solution has 100 percent specificity (the kits always showed positive when they were presented with a sample known to be positive) and are said to be able to pick up asymptomatic carriers.

“The test Quark will be using is responsive to a load as small as 10 copies of the SARS CoV-2 virus per microliter in a sample,” Weidman said. “So it is an excellent test to detect asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic carriers.”

There will be onboard testing capabilities, as well as departure testing should a guest need a negative COVID-19 test to travel internationally.

Of note, the company sent out requests for proposals to 370 COVID-19 providers, and narrowed it down to 12 contenders. Weidman said the testing the company is offering can catch asymptotic carriers.

Another aspect of the company’s new protocols is an anytime cancellation and rebooking policy. Guests can rebook their trip for any reason for up to 30 days prior to the voyage. If it’s a COVID-related reason, guests can rebook anytime prior to departure.

The experience aboard will not be compromised either, Weidman said, noting that Polar Regions already offer a socially-distanced experience.

“We’ve done mock voyages, where we walk through the voyage from the first minute to the last minute, day by day, from both the perspective of the staff and passengers, and looking at the physical spaces for social distancing,” he said.

Onboard, the product will see new HVAC solutions for fresh air, no buffet, extended meal times, isolation cabins, additional staff and other tweaks to allow for social distancing.

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