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

23 Sep 2020
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."

Matt started Royal Caribbean Blog in 2010 as a place to share his passion for all things Royal Caribbean with readers. He oversees all the writers at Royal Caribbean Blog, and writes a great deal of content on a daily basis.  He has become one of the foremost expert on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Over the years, he has reached Pinnacle Club status with Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program.

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