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Royal Caribbean will redeploy five cruise ships for summer 2021

In:
23Sep2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Five Royal Caribbean cruise ships will have their summer 2021 schedules changed up, as the cruise line announced an update to its deployment plans.

Royal Caribbean says it made these changes based on, "market research and valuable feedback from guests and travel partners".

Our new deployment line-up provides guests with greater variety, including a season of short Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona and more island time in the Caribbean with additional summer homeports in Tampa, FL and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Guests with confirmed bookings between April and October 2021 whose cruises are affected by these changes will be notified directly within the next three weeks, as the new itineraries are added. These existing bookings will continue to be covered by Royal Caribbean’s Cruise with Confidence program.

Europe

Adventure of the Seas will sail from Barcelona and offer a mix of 4- and 5-night short Mediterranean itineraries. She was previously scheduled to sail from Copenhagen and Stockholm.

Jewel of the Seas will sail from Stockholm and Copenhagen on 7-night cruises to the Baltics and Scandanavia. She was previously scheduled to sail from Amsterdam and Barcelona.

Caribbean

Independence of the Seas will sail from Miami instead of Fort Lauderdale for the summer season, offering 6- and 8-night cruises to the Southern and Western Caribbean.

Vision of the Seas will cruise from San Juan, Puerto Rico to the Southern Caribbean. She was originally scheduled to sail from Barcelona.

Brilliance of the Seas will stay in Tampa for the summer, offering 4-, 5- and 7-night cruises to the Caribbean. She was originally scheduled to sail from Miami.

Royal Caribbean’s other summer 2021 cruises will sail on as planned in the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe and Asia-Pacific. 

Individual reservations will be moved to the new ship/sailing on-or-before September 28, 2020.

If a future cruise credit was leveraged to pay for a reservation on a cancelled itinerary, the FCC will be reinstated for future use, under its original terms. Likewise, for impacted guests preferring to cancel in lieu of a re-accommodation offer, the reinstatement of the original FCC will occur, opening the flexibility to select an alternate future cruise of his/her choice, within the set parameters of the FCC terms.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman says new health protocols help cruises "coming back sooner"

In:
23Sep2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke with travel advisors on Wednesday about the body of work and impact of the Healthy Sail Panel's initial recommendations.

Mr. Fain touched on a variety of topics related to the new protocols, the work of the Panel, and of course the return of cruising.

New protocols will allow cruises to come back sooner

Not only have the Healthy Sail Panel recommendations been well-received among cruise fans and industry leaders, but Richard Fain believes they have the basis to even get cruises back up and going even sooner than expected.

The question Mr. Fain asked the Panel after the protocols were submitted was could Royal Caribbean come back to a safe and healthy environment? 

"And their answer was, if you adopt all these protocols, you can."

"And obviously we are going to, and we believe that will greatly accelerate the time, so we're looking forward to coming back sooner."

"If they don't want to wear a mask, then they shouldn't come on the cruise"

There has been a lot of opinions if people are willing to go on a cruise and be required to wear a mask, and Mr. Fain touched on the fact that masks will be required at least in the beginning.

"It is one of the single most effective things you can do to reduce the transmission of this disease. And at least when we start, it will be an important part of the process."

"There are people who object to doing so and won't do so, but we will make sure they understand that that is, at least in the beginning, a part of the experience. And if they don't want to wear a mask, then they shouldn't come on the cruise."

"At least in the beginning, it will be an important part of our protocols on board. And I think a lot of people understand the need to protect against transmission on board."

Both Mr. Fain and Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, reiterated that masks will not be required to be worn everywhere, including in staterooms or while dining or on open decks where permissible.

Big focus on preventing a ship quarantined

There are a lot of cruise fans concerned regardless of any rules or regulations, that they could be stuck on a ship for an extended period of time due to a positive case onboard, similar to what happened to some ships in Asia before cruising shut down.

Mr. Fain noted a major focus of the Panel was on response, contingency planning, and execution.

"I don't think that many people are so much afraid of getting infection, but they don't want to be on a ship where somebody else gets infection and then they get quarantined or isolated."

"A really important part and a really big focus of the panel's effort was on how to respond if we do have a case that gets on board."

Even Mr. Fain acknowledged that statistically, it is likely a case will pop up onboard eventually, but the system will be designed the catch it early and avoid it becoming a major issue.

"We respond properly. We have a extensive contingency plan so that we don't have to go through one of these processes of quarantining huge numbers of people. We take care of the the the small number that we catch early and everybody else can go about their business."

Royal Caribbean still has to turn protocols into rules

The Panel's work are recommendations, and Mr. Fain did note that Royal Caribbean still has to take the recommendations and turn them into cruise line policy.

"I should this explain these are recommendations from the panel. We actually then take these recommendations and put them into our detailed protocol."

"We'll be doing our own rules and we'll be working those through with the CDC and other regulatory bodies, but the panel's report is really our North Star on this."

"Maybe in our protocols, we put this in more operationally oriented language, but I think the vast bulk of the substance is clear from the report."

"Our protocols will be based on the report, but not a verbatim transcript. And we will we will be issuing those relatively soon."

Testing is single most important step

Mr. Fain was adamant of the importance that testing will play to keep everyone safe onboard.

"We do think that we have procedures that we could put in place that gets you the tests, have the test results reported directly to us."

"I think we have processes that will enable you relatively easily to get the tests and have... the confirmation of the negative tests forwarded to us electronically."

No comment back yet from CDC

Mr. Fain was asked if the CDC had responded yet to the Healthy Sail Panel protocols, but Mr. Fain explained they had not, nor did they expect them to quite this quickly.

"No, we only just gave it to them on Monday, and as you've seen, it is a extensive and comprehensive document, but we have not heard any comment back from them since we submitted it on Monday, nor would we have expected to do that quickly."

5 recommendations for wearing masks on cruise ships by the Healthy Sail Panel

In:
23Sep2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings joint Healthy Sail Panel announced its initial recommendations on Monday, and as many expected, we will have to wear a mask on a cruise.

Wearing a mask is one of many new protocols that will be part of the overall plan to prevent, detect and treat infections on a cruise ship, and it is one of the most contentious topics related to what guests are willing to do (or not).

Having sifted through the proposed policies, here are the important takeaways from what wearing a mask on a cruise will probably entail.

Guests and crew members should wear masks

As many guessed, the wearing of personal protective equipment, such as a face mask, should be required for guests and crew members in accordance with CDC recommendations while on board the ship

The panel landed on this recommendation based on "increasing evidence that cloth face coverings help prevent people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 from spreading the virus to others."

They cited a systematic review in The Lancet of 172 observational studies in health care and non-health care settings across 16 countries and six continents that found a reduced risk of infection with the use of face masks.

The Healthy Sail Panel knew masks are a divisive topic

The Healthy Sail Panel engaged in consumer insight surveys to get a sense of what people thought about masks, and there is clearly differing opinions.

Surveys conducted by the cruise industry show that some guests are unwilling to cruise if face coverings are required, while other consumers are unwilling to cruise if face masks are not required.

In cruises that have resumed in Europe, a significant portion of guests wear face masks in public areas, even when they are not mandated. Therefore, in the interest of limiting potential spread of virus, the Panel recommends that face coverings are a simple and effective strategy that should be employed.

Masks on a cruise are not a permanent change

While having to wear a mask on a cruise is something we will have to deal with when cruises resume, it will likely eventually go away as a rule.

The Panel recognizes that as disease prevalence goes down, face covering requirements may be loosened over time based on the latest available scientific data, public health agency recommendations, and risk modeling. However, in the initial period of sailing, they are an important tool that should be regularly used.

There will be exceptions where you have to wear a mask

Wearing a mask is important, but not required everywhere.

The Panel indicated guests should wear face coverings in any indoor, congregate setting regardless of physical distancing measures, but should not be required to wear face coverings in their own cabins.

A notable exception is indoor dining. Seating in restaurants and bars/lounges should allow for physical distancing, so guests can eat and drink without needing face coverings while seated.

Face coverings are not required in outdoor settings as long as physical distancing is feasible. However, if physical distancing is not feasible in certain outdoor settings, masks/face coverings among guests should be required in those locations.

For crew members, masks should be worn any time they are engaging with other crew members or guests (i.e., in all public settings, both indoors and outdoors).

The types of masks you should (and should not) wear

The Panel pointed out the types of masks guests should wear, based largely on CDC recommendations.

CDC recommends that masks have two or more layers, be worn over the nose and mouth, be worn by individuals two years of age and older, and should not be worn by children younger than two, people who have trouble breathing, or people who cannot remove the mask without assistance.

CDC does not recommend that non-health care workers wear masks intended for health care workers and also does not recommend the use of gaiters or face shields at this time.

Cruise operators should ensure that requirements for face masks are in accordance with the most up-to-date CDC guidelines.

Medical conditions and Disabilities

The guidelines also spell out recommendations for guests who have certain special needs that preclude them from being able to wear a mask.

Individuals for whom wearing a mask is medically contraindicated should be directed to a secondary medical screening (to be conducted in person or as a telehealth consult) where a case-by-case assessment of the individual’s fitness for travel will be made, and a recommendation to allow or deny boarding will be based on the fitness for travel determination.

The Panel says case-by-case exceptions may be granted for individuals for whom wearing a mask is medically contraindicated.

"In your dreams!" Royal Caribbean and NCL CEOs have funny exchange while talking new health protocols

In:
22Sep2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. executives had a funny moment during an interview with CNBC.

Richard Fain and Frank Del Rio started off this week doing lots of interviews to help showoff the hard work the Healthy Sail Panel has had in creating a comprehensive set of new recommendations and protocols.

During the course of one of these interviews, the host attempted to compliment Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line as the industry leaders of cruising, by comparing the two cruise lines to the #1 and #2 soft drink manufacturers, Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

While being complimented as the top two cruise lines is a pleasant honor, it is well known how much more dominant Coke is over Pepsi, and Mr. Del Rio couldn't help but quickly say that NCL was the Coke of the two.

Mr. Fain, equally feeling his cruise line was worthy of the top honor, quickly retorted back "In your dreams, Frank! In your dreams."

The lighthearted moment caps off a big couple of days for the entire cruise industry, which believes a return to cruises in North America is closer than ever thanks to a broad set of new protocols, coupled with success in limited cruising restarting in Europe.

The blue ribbon panel of scientific experts have produced over 70 steps they believe cruise lines can adopt and use to be able to offer cruises as safely as possible.

Recommendations include testing, the use of face coverings, and enhanced sanitation procedures on ships and in terminals. 

The Panel is chaired by Governor Mike Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Healthy Sail Panel identified five areas of focus every cruise operator should address to improve health and safety for guests and crew, and reduce the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships:

  • Testing, Screening and Exposure Reduction
  • Sanitation and Ventilation
  • Response, Contingency Planning and Execution
  • Destination and Excursion Planning
  • Mitigating Risks for Crew Members

In each category, the Healthy Sail Panel created practical and actionable recommendations to address specific safety concerns. Among the recommendations are key strategies such as:

  • Taking aggressive measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from entering a ship through robust education, screening and testing of both crew and guests prior to embarkation
  • Reducing transmission via air management strategies and enhanced sanitation practices
  • Implementing detailed plans to address positive infection on board, including contingencies for onboard treatment, isolation and rapid evacuation and repatriation
  • Closely controlling shore excursions
  • Enhanced protection for crew members

Royal Caribbean looks to take live cruise ship acts to new heights with drones

In:
22Sep2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is going to take their live shows on cruise ships to new heights, according to a recently shared video.

Nick Weir, Senior Vice President of Entertainment for Royal Caribbean International, shared a video on Twitter of a demonstration of the cruise line's drone technology for an upcoming show on its newest cruise ship, Odyssey of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean has used drones in shows in the last couple of years, but Mr. Weir characterized this drone performance on Odyssey of the Seas as, "most complex technology yet."

A total of 48 drones are being used in the technical rehearsal with a performer in the middle of them, appearing to command the drones around him.

Royal Caribbean has already used drones on at least two ships, including Symphony of the Seas and Navigator of the Seas.

The new show is being developed for Odyssey of the Seas, which is currently under construction at the Meyer Werft shipyard.

Royal Caribbean has not yet revealed the entertainment for Odyssey of the Seas, but Mr. Weir enjoys showing off brief teases on what we can expect to see.

September 22 photo

The shipyard released a new construction photo this week of Odyssey of the Seas, which is due to be delivered in Spring 2021.

Once complete, Odyssey of the Seas will be Royal Caribbean's second Quantum Ultra Class cruise ship, sailing from Rome in Summer 2021.

After her inaugural season in Europe, Odyssey will then continue its inaugural year in Fort Lauderdale, FL with 8- and 6-night Caribbean itineraries.

5 things you've probably overlooked with the new cruise protocols

In:
22Sep2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The Healthy Sail Panel announced their initial recommendations for new policies that cruise lines should adopt in order to have a healthy return to service, but there are a few key facts you may have overlooked in reviewing it all.

The globally recognized medical and scientific experts assembled to craft these new recommendations have spent months working on a set of changes they think a cruise line should implement, but having spent some time with the document and hearing from cruise line executives, there are a few very important pieces of information to remember when reading over their conclusions.

Here are five facts you should be aware of when it comes to the new Healthy Sail Panel recommendations.

The recommendations are not yet rules

Believe it or not, but the 74 detailed steps announced by the Healthy Sail Panel are not actually the rules adopted by Royal Caribbean, or any cruise line.

The body of work provided is a set of initial findings that was submitted to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in response to a CDC request for public comment that will be used to inform future public health guidance and preventative measures relating to travel on cruise ships.

One of the next steps is for Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, and any cruise line to take these recommendations and turn them into cruise-line specific rules.

Here is a quote from yesterday's press release to that point, "Fain and Del Rio said each company will use the Panel’s recommendations to inform the development of new, detailed operating protocols, which will be submitted to the CDC and other authorities around the globe for review and approval".

So the bottom line is the actual rules Royal Caribbean adopts may not be exactly word-for-word the same as what was released on Monday.

Many of the regulations are not meant to be permanent

If the idea of wearing a mask, having limited seating options around the ship, and being tested every day seem like a less-than-ideal kind of vacation, keep in mind these rules are not meant to be around forever.

Many of the 74 recommendations are labeled as a temporary Change that could be modified or removed later.

Royal Caribbean recognizes that what is happening today in the world can be drastically different than next month or six months from now. As a result, many of the policies are meant to at some point be discontinued over time.

Nothing has changed when cruises might actually restart (yet)

While all of this news is a major milestone in the process of resuming sailing around the world, nothing has changed yet as to when cruises might resume.

The CDC's No Sail Order has had no change in when it will expire, or even possibly be extended. 

Neither Royal Caribbean or any cruise line has committed to a firm restart date of cruises in the Americas.

The work of the Healthy Sail Panel, along with the committment by the cruise industry that cruises will resume in the Americas, is a big deal and worthy of attention, but it has not yet moved the needle of when we can expect to get back on a cruise.

The recommendations ignore a vaccine

Something important to keep in mind with all of the Healthy Sail Panel recommendations is they intentionally ignored any potential vaccine.

On page 16 of the recommendations, the Panel explains that it is too early to know what effect a vaccine will have in the coming months, but the Panel did not want to wait for one to come out and then make recommendations.

As a result, they are ignoring the vaccine for now and working off pre-vaccine steps.

The Panel acknowledges that its recommendations regarding testing may change over the coming months as the testing landscape evolves, and particularly once an effective vaccine is widely available. However, given the uncertainties around the timing, availability, and performance of a vaccine, the Panel recommends waiting until there is more certainty about these issues before recommending changes to the testing protocols based on vaccine availability.

This means once a vaccine does come out, some of these recommendations could change to reflect the impact a vaccine has on the populous.

Certain masks are likely to be prohibited

While face masks are a major component to keeping guests and crew members safe onboard, the Healthy Sail Panel deferred to CDC guidelines on the kinds of masks you should wear.

Specifically, it outlines which sorts of masks you should and should not be allowed to wear on a cruise ship.

  • Masks should have two or more layers, be worn over the nose and mouth, be worn by individuals two years of age and older
  • Masks should not be worn by children younger than two, people who have trouble breathing, or people who cannot remove the mask without assistance
  • CDC does not recommend that non-health care workers wear masks intended for health care workers
  • Gaiter masks and face shields are not recommended

These recommendations mirror what Walt Disney World has implemented with its own set of mask rules.

Up to 45% off pre-cruise purchases with Royal Caribbean's new sale

In:
22Sep2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean is offering up to 45% off cruise extras you can add-onto your vacation, such as drink packages, shore excursions and more.

The Fall into Savings Sale begins today, and runs between September 22 - 30, 2020 and is valid on sailings from November 1, 2020 - October 31, 2021.

Here is what is included during the sale:

BEVERAGE: Up to 45% off

  • Classic Soda Beverage Package: 40% off onboard prices.
  • Classic Soda Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: Discount varies by ship.
  • Dasani Water Cans: 40% off onboard prices.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package: Discount varies by ship.
  • Deluxe Beverage Package + VOOM Surf & Stream 1 Device: 40% off onboard prices.
  • Refreshment Package: 40% off onboard prices.

SHORE EXCURSIONS: Up to 40% off

  • Shore Excursions: Discount varies by ship. 

INTERNET: Up to 65% off

  • The Key: Discount varies by ship. (Excludes MJ)
  • VOOM Surf + Stream Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship.
  • VOOM Surf Voyage Package 1, 2, 3, 4 Device(s): Discount varies by ship. 

DINING: Up to 55% off

  • Unlimited Dining Package on 3N – 9N sailings: Discount varies by ship. (Excludes MJ, VI)

ACTIVITIES: 20% off

  • All Access Ship Tour: (Excludes BR, NE, OY, QN)

 GIFTS & GEAR: Up to 20% off (Excludes OY, QN, VY)

  • Anniversary Decorations with Champagne
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Chocolate Cake & Strawberries
  • Happy Birthday Decorations with Vanilla Cake & Strawberries
  • Inky Beach Set
  • Inky Beach Towel (TicTacToe)
  • Inky Travel Set
  • Red Wine and Cheese
  • Royal Caribbean Beach Towel
  • Strawberries with Champagne
  • White Wine and Cheese

PHOTO PACKAGES: Up to 70% off

  • Photo Packages: From 5 - 100 print and/or digital options: discount varies by ship. (See full terms for exclusions)
  • Photo Package: Private Photo Session: discount varies by ship. (See full terms for exclusions)

To check if your sailing has this new offer available, log into the Cruise Planner on Royal Caribbean's web site look for any available offers. Keep in mind that not all sailings may see the sale applicable, nor are all offers significantly cheaper than previously posted.

If you spot a better discount on something you already pre-purchased, you should be able to cancel the purchase and then re-purchase the same item under this promotion.

4 Cruise CEOs see cruises restarting in USA thanks to newly announced safety policies

In:
21Sep2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Cruise line executives held a press conference on Monday to unify with one message: cruises are going to resume around the world, including the United States.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) hosted a virtual press conference with CEOs from Royal Caribbean Group, Carnival Corporation, MSC Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. to announce the cruise industry has submitted their new comprehensive protocols to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to get cruises started up again.

The cruise line executives and industry leaders spoke to the a variety of topics related to new policies that it hopes will get cruises started up again.

Adam Goldstein, Global Chair of CLIA, kicked off the meeting with a bold statement on the industry's commitment to starting up, "we are in a position to announce the mandatory core elements of health protocols that we see as a path to a phased resumption of ocean-going cruise operations in the Americas."

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke about the Healthy Sail Panel's work that was also announced today in a "very transparent way to support a pathway for a resumption of cruising from U.S. ports."

"We said we wouldn't start until we were ready, but we think that the science has advanced and the technology has advanced to a point where we can safely proceed forward with our objective of giving the best experiences in the world in a very safe and controlled environment."

How soon can this happen?

While each of the cruise line executives had a positive outlook on taking a giant step towards cruises resuming in the Americas, the obvious question was when might that occur.

Brian Salerno, CLIA Senior Vice President, Global Maritime Policy, said that the cruise industry has provided as much detail as possible to the CDC to accelerate the restart process, but "we don't have a specific time frame from CDC when that will be allowed."

"Obviously, we'd like to be able to salvage something of the 2020 season. We know it's a it's a laborious process to go through the thirty five hundred or so comments that they've received in in response to their request. But we think the CLIA submission and the other industry level submissions would be very informative and hopefully make their jobs a little bit easier."

Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, commented on ability to operate cruises by the end of this year, "We are very confident that the recommendations that the Healthy Sail Panel plan...will allow us to cruise safely."

"We've not put a time factor on it. We underlying all this is we will cruise when we believe it is safe to cruise."

"We must develop the confidence among the authorities, among the travel agents, among the guests, the whole cruise ecosystem."

In terms of minimums, Carnival Cruise CEO Arnold Donald said it has taken "a good 30 days" in Europe to get a ship ready to go. 

"We do have the rigorous protocols in place for crew. We have to fly crew back in, and they have to go through rigorous testing, in some cases isolation and quarantine as an added measure and so on. And so it does take some time."

Later in the meeting, Mr. Del Rio was asked if the cruise lines feel it is safe to cruise right now with these new protocols.

"Absolutely. We have great confidence in the comprehensive and layered approach that our healthy and safety panel has put forth in which we are incorporating into the detailed protocols that we will be submitting to the CDC very shortly."

"We do feel very, very confident that they'll work in practice as well as they they look on paper."

"But that's why we're going to have a phased approach. We're going to test it. We're going to make adjustments along the way and and hopefully we will have a great start, build momentum, build confidence among all the constituents of the cruise industry so that we can get back to what we do best."

Guest and crew testing

One of the major aspects of the return to cruise is testing of passengers and crew.

Mr. Goldstein was blunt in his explanation of how important testing is to the cruise industry, "We should be clear that the commitment is one hundred percent testing of guests and crew prior to embarkation."

"The element that we're committing to does not specify the type of testing or exactly the timing of testing prior."

"The essence of what we're announcing today, unlike any other sector of travel, to our knowledge, is that every cruise line member of CLIA will test every guest and every crew prior to embarkation."

The most important changes you should know about Royal Caribbean's new health protocols

In:
21Sep2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. announced on Monday a comprehensive new list of changes, protocols and policies that its Health Sail Panel recommends for cruises to restart.

It is a very detailed and in-depth list of recommendations, and you might have taken a glance and quickly realized there is a lot to process.

Having sifted through the recommendations for a few hours, here are some of the important takeaways and big changes you should be aware of that are part of this body of work.

Not all of these changes are permanent

You should be aware that some of these changes are only meant for a temporary period in the beginning when cruises resume, and the panel indicated they could be modified or removed later.

Each recommendation falls into one of two categories: one that can be scaled down, modified, or discontinued over time, or one that should continue to be implemented to address SARS-CoV-2 and other infectious diseases.

The panel said it was not able to determine specific parameters that would determine at which point those control measures could be modified from the criteria that have been outlined.  However, they wanted to indicate that some policies could be rescinded once the pandemic is no longer a public health concern and does not pose the same threat as it does today.

You will be tested before and during the cruise

The Healthy Sail Panel said that while a vaccine may change things down the line, until a vaccine is widely available and performance evaluated, testing is the best approach for the time being.

Pre-cruise

All guests should be tested 24 hours to 5 days before the cruise, so that they are able to receive a negative result prior to beginning their travel via land or air transportation to the port for embarkation.

If a rapid and reliable test becomes widely available, the cruise line should administer a second test at the pier or immediately before boarding to improve confidence everyone onboard is healthy.

"Using adequately sensitive testing methods, the likelihood of missing a SARS-CoV-2 infection in an individual because of false negatives is extremely low under this double testing scenario."

If that sort of testing is not available due to financial or logistical constraints, the test 1-5 days before the cruise will suffice.

Embarkation

At embarkation, the Panel does not recommend a specific set of questions but rather recommends that the cruise operators base their screening questionnaires on the latest CDC guidance regarding signs and symptoms of COVID-19.

To encourage truthful reporting, cruise operators should make guests and crew aware that identification of symptoms or potential exposures does not automatically result in denial of boarding. An individual who reports a symptom that may indicate COVID-19 should go to a secondary screening area for further medical evaluation. Individuals reporting recent, prior contact with an individual with suspected COVID19 should also be referred to secondary medical screening.

Temperature checks

Despite the Panel's thoughts that temperature checks provide "limited value in identifying individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infections", they still feel it is a simple, quick, and low-cost step that can be taken as part of an overall strategy to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from entering a ship.

The panel recommends temperature checks be conducted every day, and in the later part of the day "when individuals are more likely to present with a fever" of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher.

The Panel does not recommend that cruise operators perform temperature checks more frequently than once a day.

You will be denied boarding if anyone in your group tests positive

Preventing infected people from boarding a cruise ship in the first place is a primary focus of keeping cruise ships safe, and in addition to the health screenings conducted at embarkation, there are some automatic denials for everyone in a group that may have tested positive recently.

If a group is traveling together to a cruise, if any one of them has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the previous two weeks, all members of that party who are close contacts of the infected individual should not travel to the pier and all will be denied boarding. 

Guests should be made aware far in advance of their cruise about mask wearing requirements, social distancing requirements, and changes in other cruise operations so they are prepared to comply with these policies on board.

Guests and crew should wear masks

One of the top questions among cruisers was if they would have to wear masks, and mask use while onboard appears to definitely be part of the plan.

There is increasing evidence that cloth face coverings help prevent people who are infected with SARS-CoV-2 from spreading the virus to others. According to CDC, cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the virus, particularly when used universally within communities.

Guests should wear face coverings in any indoor, congregate setting regardless of physical distancing measures, but should not be required to wear face coverings in their own cabins.

A notable exception is indoor dining. Seating in restaurants and bars/lounges should allow for physical distancing, so guests can eat and drink without needing face coverings while seated.

Face coverings are not required in outdoor settings as long as physical distancing is feasible. However, if physical distancing is not feasible in certain outdoor settings, masks/face coverings among guests should be required in those locations.

Cruise ships are reduced capacity

Initially, Royal Caribbean should not sail with its ships full in order to facilitate physical distancing, especially as procedures are being tested to ensure they are working properly.

Capacity can be gradually increased as conditions permit.

Capacity reductions should also be applied to all ship and terminal venues (e.g., restaurants, retail, casinos, lounges, fitness centers), as well as transportation vehicles and shore excursions, to allow for appropriate distancing practices.

Spreading guests out

The specifics of exactly how cruise ships will be physically distanced will depend on the ship, but the panel did provide some examples of social distancing it recommends.

  • Spacing out loungers at the pool
  • Separating tables at restaurants or leaving some empty
  • Blocking off certain seats in the theaters
  • Blocking off some slot machines to allow space between guests,
  • Moving activities outdoors where possible (e.g., holding yoga class on the ship deck rather than in the gym)

The Panel believes that removal of, and substitution for, self-service buffets during this time will help to maintain these general distancing guidelines and avoid overcrowding, and should therefore be implemented across all ships.

What happens if COVID-19 is on the ship

Having a plan to deal with an outbreak is a big part of the Healthy Sail Panel's plan.

Containment

Off the bat, certain staterooms should be designated as isolation and quarantine spaces. These spaces are for people who have either been exposed to someone with a confirmed infection and/or an individual who has tested positive.

Individuals who have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 or individuals who are experiencing symptoms consistent with a SARS-CoV-2 infection will be isolated in designated isolation cabins within close proximity to the medical ward.

Individuals who were exposed to an individual with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection will be quarantined in a single occupancy cabin with a private bathroom (unless quarantining with family members or close contacts with the same exposure history), no interconnection with an adjoining room, door closed, and preferably with a balcony.

Evacuation

In the event a case is identified onboard, Royal Caribbean should have a plan of action for getting these people off the ship and to a land-based treatment facility.

There should be plans in place for small, medium and large scale evacuation scenarios to avoid the quagmire of problems that occured in February when cruise ships in Asia were unprepared for getting infected guests and crew members off the ship. 

There is a lot of guidance on this subject in the plan, but the bottom line is there needs to be a plan of action.

Only cruise line shore excursions in the beginning

Like other cruise lines have already implemented in Europe, the recommendation is at least for the first few cruises back, guests should only be permitted to disembark at ports if they are taking cruise line sponsored excursions.

The panel does recommend Royal Caribbean "potentially reconsidering the cost of curated experiences" to make these more appealing.

In addition, indoor excursions should only be offered if  if physical distancing, use of masks, and other recommended protective measures can be implemented.

How cruises should restart

The final part of the Healthy Sail Panel's plan is for how cruises should start back up again.

The first step should be a simulated cruise, where employees pretend to be guests while a ship is docked and independent observers could watch the process and afterwards a full debrief with those observers would be done and corrective actions or modifications could be made.

Next, a a short overnight cruise with a limited load factor would be conducted with employees once again pretending to be guests, with more activities offered onboard.

If that goes well, then Royal Caribbean should offer a short cruise to a private destination.

The initial cruises with paying customers should be as simple as possible with limited destinations, controlled excursions, and short trip lengths. Once these initial sailings are
conducted and internally examined, it may be appropriate to carefully expand operations.

Royal Caribbean new cruise ship health protocols include masks, social distancing, testing and more

In:
21Sep2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Group has submitted its new comprehensive list of new health protocols and policy changes to the CDC that it will implement on its cruise ships in order to restart cruises.

The Healthy Sail Panel announced on Monday 74 detailed steps that it believes will protect guests, crew members and the places cruise ships visit from the spread of COVID-19.

The list of protocols is 65 pages long that include testing, the use of face coverings, and enhanced sanitation procedures on ships and in terminals. 

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman Richard Fain said Royal Caribbean will use the Panel’s recommendations to inform the development of new, detailed operating protocols, which will be submitted to the CDC and other authorities around the globe for review and approval.

Here is a breakdown of the changes that are either going to be implemented in the short term and discontinued over time, or kept for the foreseeable future.

Blue = Temporary Change that could be modified or removed later.

Green = Change intended to be kept over time.

Testing

1. All crew should be tested for SARS-CoV-2 between 5 days and 24 hours prior to leaving their home location to join the ship and receive a negative result, quarantine for seven days on board the ship upon arrival, and take a test at the end of that seven-day period and receive a negative result, before beginning their duties.

2. Cruise operators should implement a crew surveillance program, including periodic testing for SARS-CoV-2, to provide a reasonable level of assurance that the virus is not circulating among crew.

3. Other employees and ancillary staff (e.g., luggage porters and transportation providers) should undergo daily symptom screening but do not need to be regularly tested like crew or guests.

4. All guests joining a ship, regardless of method of travel to the ship, should be tested for SARS-CoV-2 between 5 days and 24 hours before boarding and receive a negative result that is shared with the cruise operator, before coming on board.

Health Screening

5. At embarkation, all guests and crew boarding the ship should undergo health screening to identify any symptoms consistent with COVID-19 (or other infectious diseases) and any contact with individuals suspected or confirmed to have a SARS-CoV-2 infection prior to the cruise.

6. All individuals should have their temperature taken via contactless device as part of the boarding process.

7. Any individual who discloses symptoms of possible SARS-CoV-2 infection or close contact with an individual with suspected infection, or who displays a temperature of 100.4 degrees or above, should undergo secondary screening by medical personnel to determine whether they may board the ship or whether they will be denied boarding.

Denial of Boarding

8. Cruise operators should not allow an individual to sail if they do not affirmatively state their willingness to comply with current safety and public health protocols.

9. Individuals who have received a positive SARS-CoV-2 test or who have in the last 14 days been in close contact with an individual with confirmed infection should not be permitted to board the ship.

Policy on Guests at Increased Risk of Severe Illness

10. Cruise operators should rely on CDC guidelines to determine who is at an increased risk of severe illness and who may be at an increased risk of severe illness.

11. Cruise operators should recommend that guests who are or may be at increased risk of severe illness consult with their health care provider before traveling.

Guest Information & Education

12. In addition to the information typically communicated at booking, guests should be provided sufficient information on SARS-CoV-2 to assess their individual risk, to fully understand the safety precautions being taken by the cruise line to address SARS-CoV-2, and to agree to comply with the necessary safety protocols while traveling.

Onboard Symptom Tracking and Monitoring

13. Cruise operators should conduct once-daily temperature checks for guests and crew on board.

14. Cruise operators should employ routine symptom screening methodologies to help ensure that potential SARS-CoV-2 infections are identified as quickly as possible.

15. Cruise operators should ensure education efforts are in place to help guests understand the importance of reporting symptoms and potential repercussions of failure to report symptoms.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Usage

16. To prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, cruise operators should require guests and crew to wear cloth face coverings/face masks in accordance with CDC recommendations.

17. Crew members with prolonged contact (i.e., contact that may result in exposure by CDC’s definition) with guests on board the ship should be required to utilize complementary PPE, in addition to wearing a face mask/face covering.

Capacity Restrictions

18. When returning to sailing, cruise operators should adjust guest and crew load factors in a manner that allows for appropriate physical distancing on board in accordance with applicable guidance, taking into consideration the size and design of each ship.

General Distancing Guidelines

19. Cruise operators’ facilities on board the ship, at terminals, and at cruise line-owned and operated destinations should be modified to promote and facilitate physical distancing in accordance with the CDC recommendation of a distance of at least six feet.

20. Abundant signage and floor markers should be utilized to communicate physical distancing requirements in the terminal, at cruise line-owned destinations, and on board the ship, with a particular emphasis on high-traffic areas (e.g., gangways, elevators, ship common areas).

Terminal, Boarding, Debarkation Controls

21. Cruise operators should utilize processes and protocols for touchless check-in and speedier boarding to reduce contact and potential congestion in the terminal.

Sanitation

22. Cruise operators should educate guests in advance of travel about the sanitation measures that are being used preboard, on board, and at private, cruise line-owned and operated destinations.

23. Enhanced sanitation protocols should be employed to protect against the risk of SARSCoV-2 transmission via inanimate surfaces or objects, with attention to both high- and low-touch areas of the ship, terminal, and cruise line-owned and operated destinations.

24. Cruise operators should ensure that all disinfectants used for cleaning and disinfection are on the EPA’s List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 or national equivalent for terminals located outside the U.S., which must also comply with local government regulations.

Hand Hygiene

25. Cruise operators should follow CDC recommendations regarding the use of hand sanitizers and hand washing with soap and water to craft their recommendations for guests.

26. Cruise operators should ensure that hand sanitizer stations, wipes, or hand washing stations are conveniently placed around the ship for guests’ and crew members’ usage.

27. Cruise operators should ensure that crew members are thoroughly trained on all aspects of infection control with emphasis on proper hand hygiene techniques.

28. In addition to providing hand sanitizer and hand washing stations on board, cruise operators should encourage hand washing or use of hand sanitizer before and after guests participate in recreational activities.

Ventilation, HVAC, Filtration Controls

29. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled for.

30. Cruise operators should use a variety of indoor air management strategies aimed at reducing occupant exposure to infectious droplets/aerosols.

31. All cruise operators should upgrade the HVAC systems on their ships to, ideally, MERV 13 filters to minimize pathogen dispersal from infected guests and crew.

32. Cruise operators’ indoor air management strategies should be optimized given the constraints of ship age and ventilation type.

33. When considering air management strategies, cruise operators should have a primary focus on reducing exposures in the core set of areas where guests and crew would be most vulnerable to droplet/airborne exposure to virus.

Medical Personnel

34. As a part of augmenting onboard medical capacity to ensure preparedness for potential COVID-19 cases, cruise operators should increase their existing ratios of medical personnel to guests and crew.

35. Cruise operators should ensure redundancy and back-up for onboard medical personnel.

36. Cruise operators should ensure there is sufficient onboard medical leadership on all ships, including the designation of a crew member with responsibility for infectious disease prevention and response who will inform and oversee execution of components of the response to an outbreak. Cruise operators should also ensure they have a doctor on board with intensivist training to manage the medical care of severely ill patients.

Onboard Clinic Design & Operations

37. Cruise operators should increase the capacity in their onboard medical facilities to treat patients who may become critically ill from SARS-CoV-2 infection or other unrelated illnesses.

38. Cruise operators should amplify the varieties and amount of equipment in the onboard medical facilities, including the ability to test for SARS-CoV-2 infection on board.

39. Cruise ship facilities should be arranged to accommodate care for patients presenting with suspected infectious disease separately from care for those presenting with noninfectious diseases.

40. Rather than a patient having an in-person appointment at the medical facility to receive a diagnosis or care, medical appointments should be scheduled virtually/remotely and/or medical staff members should hold appointments in the patient’s stateroom when possible.

Treatment Plan

41. A cruise line’s medical treatment plan should be responsive to the current understanding of COVID-19 and optimal treatment protocols, as well as to the specific clinical needs of each patient.

42. Cruise operators should have established relationships with onshore medical institutions that can provide telemedicine consultations in the event of a more serious COVID-19 case.

Contact Tracing

43. Cruise operators should use CDC guidance as a general guide regarding exposure (< 6 feet for ≥ 15 minutes), pending updates based on emerging scientific evidence.

44. Cruise operators should define high-, medium-, and low-risk exposures such that recommendations for each exposure level can be efficiently operationalized

45. Cruise operators should employ a variety of contact tracing methodologies to ensure that all potential SARS-CoV-2 infections are identified as quickly as possible.

46. Cruise operators should collect metrics on the effectiveness of contact tracing.

47. Cruise operators should be transparent in their communication with guests about what information is being collected and how it will be used for contact tracing

Isolation/Quarantine

48. Cruise operators should designate certain cabins on the ship as isolation and quarantine spaces.

49. Cruise operators should provide guidelines for the determination of whether, when, and where an individual should be isolated or quarantined based on their exposure risk, symptoms, etc.

Debarkation Scenarios

50. Cruise operators should have a thorough mobilization response plan in place prior to sailing to address the various scenarios that may require individuals with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection (guests or crew), and their close contacts, to debark from the ship.

51. Cruise operators should define the criteria for small-, moderate-, and large-scale debarkation scenarios in advance of cruising, including a clear decision-making process to guide thinking about when the threshold has been met for each risk level.

52. Cruise operators should establish offsite incident management with designated medical professionals’ advice to respond rapidly and to aid in decision-making.

53. In any debarkation scenario, individuals with confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection, close contacts, and persons under investigation should be kept separate from any healthy individuals (i.e., those not identified through contact tracing or those who have tested negative).

54. Cruise operators should establish a communications plan, and assign a communications lead in advance, to share timely, relevant information with crew and guests on board the ship in the event of a SARS-CoV-2 infection during or after the cruise. Additionally, cruise operators should have systems in place to coordinate information about SARS-CoV-2 infections to relevant health authorities.

Destination & Itinerary Planning

55. There are two essential prerequisites that need to be satisfied in order for a ship to sail to a given port:

  1. Approval from the local government to visit a port
  2. Agreement to allow safe passage to SARS-CoV-2-infected individuals and their close contacts to debark and travel home.

56.Cruise operators should rely primarily on three key parameters when determining whether to travel to a given port:

  1. Current burden of SARS CoV-2 as defined by testing rate, positivity rate, and death rate.
  2. Local testing capacity.
  3. Local/regional/national implementation of SARS CoV-2 mitigation protocols.

57. In the startup phase, cruises itineraries should be as simple as possible, utilizing private, cruise line-owned and operated destinations or ports where there can be tight control of the onshore experience.

58. Cruise operators should initially return to service with shorter length trips.

Guest Excursions

59. During the initial return to sailing, cruise operators should only allow guests debarking from a ship at a destination port to participate in cruise line-sponsored or verified excursions as a way of limiting potential exposures in the destinations they visit.

60. Cruise operators should establish expectations of the vendors at the destinations they visit to ensure that they are taking recommended steps to reduce the transmission of SARS-CoV-2

61. Cruise operators should incorporate verification of compliance with SARS-CoV-2 protocols into their routine ongoing monitoring guidelines for excursion vendors.

62. Cruise operators should ensure that guests are thoroughly informed about potential exposure risks and how to minimize their risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 at the planned destination.

63. Cruise operators should offer indoor excursions only if physical distancing, use of masks, and other recommended protective measures can be implemented.

Prevention (Crew)

64. Cruise operators should manage the population density of crew areas of the ship

65. Cruise operators should provide opportunities for crew to debark from the ship at destinations while maintaining reasonable limitations on their movement to reduce risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

66. Crew should be placed in single-occupancy crew cabins whenever possible to minimize extended periods of close contact with other crew members.

67. Cruise operators should limit crew members’ close contact with guests over extended periods of time wherever possible. When distancing isn’t possible, crew should be provided with additional PPE appropriate to their job type.

68. Cruise operators should include crew in the surveillance, contact tracing, quarantine, isolation, and debarkation protocols that will be employed in the event that a SARS-CoV2 infection is discovered on board.

Training & Culture

69. Crew should be provided with regular training on protocols to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and empowered to take action to ensure these protocols are followed by guests and fellow crew members.

70. Cruise operators should reinforce a culture of honesty and collective responsibility among crew for following protocols and creating a safer environment.

Validation of Implementation

71. Cruise operators should have measures and metrics in place to perform continual self assessment of compliance with all updated health and safety protocols as well as methods for third-party verification of compliance.

72. Cruise operators should perform an “after-action review” following a cruise on which a SARS-CoV-2 infection was detected to assess gaps and make improvements prior to the next trip.

The Path Forward

73. In their return to sailing, cruise operators should use a phased approach to demonstrate that protocols can be successfully implemented on board their ships before returning to full operations with guests on board.

74.Cruise operators should implement a formal process to review health and safety experiences related to COVID-19 on cruises to enhance best practices and shared learnings for continuous improvement.

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