Five cruise line executives met with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence for a conference call to discuss the standards and approaches the cruise lines will employ to safely restart cruises.
Royal Caribbean Group Chairman & CEO Richard Fain joined CEOs from Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, MSC Cruises and Disney Cruise Line during the talks with Vice President Pence, along with Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and CDC Director Robert Redfield.
Also present was former Utah Governor and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt of the Healthy Sail Panel.
The meeting was set up to discuss how the current global health crisis impacts the cruise industry, along with the CDC’s No Sail Order, and the Cruise Lines International Association and Healthy Sail Panel’s proposal to resume sailing operations in a safe and responsible manner.
The cruise lines highlighted the Healthy Sail Panel's 74 key steps towards getting cruises back sailing safely, which has received industry-wide adoption.
Recommendations include testing, the use of face coverings, and enhanced sanitation procedures on ships and in terminals.
Vice President Pence gave a brief overview of the current state of the No Sail Order and highlighted the shared goal of reopening the maritime economy, with a focus on the cruise line industry safely sailing again. Pence thanked Governor Leavitt, Co-Chair of the Healthy Sail Panel, and the cruise line executives for conducting an industry-driven effort that focuses on the health outcomes.
The cruise line executives, "thanked the Trump Administration for its collaborative approach and support, and stressed that this process and proposal introduces accountability and standards that will ensure cruise ship passengers are in a safe and healthy environment."
The collective proposal will now be presented to the Task Force headed up by Vice President Pence so that it can provide a recommendation to President Donald Trump with regard to next steps on the CDC’s No Sail Order.
The virtual meeting took place a week after it was postponed due to President Trump testing positive for the virus.
The meeting covered a variety of topics, including testing for passengers and crew members and the use of shorter itineraries.
CNBC reports closer to the end of October, the CDC will either lift or extend its ban. In the meantime, the cruise lines are in the process of bringing back a lot of their crew that were sent overseas to ensure and bring them back to the U.S. to ensure that if they do get the green light from the CDC that they have a staff available to set sail.
A major factor in the decision to rescind the No Sail order is if there are any outbreaks on any of the sailings that are taking place in Europe, which are using the same safety protocols that they hope to replicate and use in the United States.
In the time since the original meeting was postponed, both Royal Caribbean and NCL announced new extensions of cruises through the end of November.
The No Sail order has been a legislative, as well as symbolic, barrier to the cruise industry restarting. Royal Caribbean has been shutdown since mid-March, and the No Sail order has been a major obstacle to any restart plan.
According to a report, CDC Director Redfield wanted to push the No Sail order out to February 2021, but the Trump administration would only allow an extension through the end of October 2020.
Vice President Mike Pence informed the CDC Director of a different plan than what the agency had in mind, according to the two task force members.