After a few weeks absence, Royal Caribbean Group Richard Fain is back with a new update with his most optimistic outlook yet for cruises to restart.
Mr. Fain started off his video update to travel agents by stating how good things are looking, "we can now state with a high level of confidence that ships from the Royal Caribbean group will be operating out of US ports as early as next month."
Cruises restarting as early as next month follows up on the news that Royal Caribbean applied to the CDC for test cruises to begin, which Mr. Fain repeated again, "Last week, we formally submitted our request for sailing authorization to the CDC."
"We're hopeful that they will issue that permission shortly."
The opportunity for cruises to restart again from the United States is something Fain sees as the result of widespread vaccine distribution, public pressure on government officials, and a change in the relationship with the CDC.
While the cruise industry's relationship with the CDC was tenuous after some early requirements, things have changed, "over the past weeks, that level of dialogue has improved one thousand percent and that dialogue has allowed us to understand their concerns. But in addition to that, dialogue has enabled the CDC to understand our concerns."
"It has also enabled the CDC to review so much helpful data that we have acquired from our sailing's abroad."
Mr. Fain talked about how vaccines will work, and he said Celebrity Cruises and Silversea will follow the CDC's option to have 95% passengers vaccinated and 98% of crew members vaccinated, but Royal Caribbean International will go a different route.
Mr. Fain echoed a new policy posted on its website that says everyone who is eligible to get a vaccine will be expected to get one. However, since Royal Caribbean is so family oriented and there are often large numbers of children, he does not think reaching 95% is possible.
"On these cruises[with many children], we may not reach the ninety five percent threshold, but even here the vast majority will be vaccinated."
Health protocols and changes onboard
So what will a cruise be like once they can sail again?
"As we restart, there will be some more restrictions than before," Mr. Fain explained, "but we expect there will be temporary and similar to what we've all become used to on land.
Mr. Fain talked about what to expect, and here are some key takeaways.
- Buffets will be full service
- No masks for fully vaccinated, "We're optimistic that masks won't be required anywhere if you're vaccinated and since most people will be."
- Some ares where social distancing required, but with lower capacity onboard initially, it should not be an issue.
- Upgraded air conditioning
- Guests will have choice of going on their own shore excursions, "In most cases, our guests can also arrange their own excursions and these will be regulated by by local rules."
These updates are exactly what Celebrity Cruises announced last week for what guests could expect, and a good sense that those rules are going to be the reality.