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Royal Caribbean’s plan to avoid a ship getting quarantined

In:
12Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

It seems a lot of cruisers are more concerned about being stuck on a cruise ship for days or weeks due to a mandatory quarantine than any other possible risk associated with going on a cruise in 2020.

A couple of cruise ships in Asia became media spectacles right before cruising shut down, and that has left 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.

To that point, Royal Caribbean's Healthy Sail Panel spent a lot of time working towards how to respond if there is a case that gets onboard.

The basic premise is for the system to catch it early before it can become widespread on the ship.

"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," said Royal Caribbean Group Chairman Richard Fain. "We take care of the the the small number that we catch early and everybody else can go about their business."

The Royal Promise is the name of the broad new set of policies that will address every aspect of a healthy sailing when cruises resume, and it provides what Royal Caribbean will do to avoid a ship quarantine.

Health and safety protocols, guest conduct rules, as well as regional travel restrictions and clearance to visit ports of call, are subject to change without notice based on ongoing evaluation, public health standards, and government requirements. Onboard and destination experiences, features, itineraries, and guest conduct rules vary by ship and destination and are subject to change without notice.

What happens if someone starts feeling unwell?

If someone starts to feel ill, they can contact the medical staff by phone. The medical team will evaluate the guest in the comfort and privacy of their stateroom and determine if a SARS-CoV-2 test is needed.

Royal Caribbean's onboard medical facilities are prepared to offer robust treatment with rapid RT-PCR testing onsite; state-of-the-art equipment enhancements like hospital-grade ventilators with CPAP and BiPAP capabilities; a dedicated Controlled Care Center where potentially infectious guests or crew can be cared for away from general medical areas; and more critical care beds on each ship.

The enhanced Medical Center has added more doctors and nurses, upgraded equipment, and a dedicated Controlled Care Center where potentially infectious guests or crew can be cared for away from general medical areas.

What is the response plan if there is a positive case?

In the event any guest or crew tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 onboard, Royal Caribbean has developed a robust, tiered response plan in place, which was developed with guidance from local authorities in Singapore and the Healthy Sail Panel.

The tiers increase protocols and vigilance onboard while providing transparent updates to guests the whole way.

In partnership with local authorities, Royal Caribbean has developed transport protocols to ensure they can get guests home safely.  These transport agreements in Singapore are part of the plan to avoid being "stuck" on a cruise ship.

Quarantine & isolation

While the Royal Promise does not cover what happens specifically once there is a case onboard, the Healthy Sail Panel recommendations provides more detail.

First, the Panel recommends Royal Caribbean should designate certain cabins on the ship as isolation and quarantine spaces.

Based on the person's exposure risk, symptoms, etc, the medical staff can determine whether, when, and where an individual should be isolated or quarantined.

In addition, the Panel echoes Royal Caribbean's tiered response plan by defining 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.

Moreover, the cruise line should establish offsite incident management with designated medical professionals’ advice to respond rapidly and to aid in decision-making.

Costs

Should the need arise, Royal Caribbean will cover COVID-19-related costs up to $25,000 SGD ($20,000 USD) per person in your travel party, for onboard medical costs, cost of any required quarantine, and travel home.

If you test positive for COVID-19 when you are onboard, Royal Caribbean will provide a 100% refund of the price of your cruise for you and your travelling party.

In addition, the cruise line will provide your medical treatment onboard, arrange safe quarantine for you, and make arrangements for your safe return home.

Royal Caribbean does encourage its guests to take out comprehensive travel insurance for any supplementary costs, in accordance with our standard booking conditions.

Three things Royal Caribbean needs to go right for cruises to resume in the U.S.

In:
12Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

While Royal Caribbean announced it will restart cruises in Singapore, the big question is when will they be able to cruise again from the United States?

The next couple of weeks could be a moment of truth for the industry. In order for cruises to resume sooner than later in the USA, at least three key things have to go Royal Caribbean's way.

Based on comments from last week's meeting with the cruise lines and Vice President Mike Pence, here are the three big things that have to fall into place for Royal Caribbean.

No outbreaks on ships in Europe

There are limited cruises operating in Europe (including Royal Caribbean's partial subsidiary TUI Cruises), and how well they do is very important to cruises having any chance in the United States.

If we start to see an outbreak on any of the European sailings, they are using the same safety protocols that cruise lines hope to employ here in the United States. A problem there would create significant cause for concern for cruises to safely operate there.

Thus far, European cruises have operated with limited issues. The "system" has to work well there for there to be proof that something similar can work in the United States.

No dramatic rise in the case count in Florida

Another potential impact to restart plans is if the home of Royal Caribbean's major cruise ports sees a lot of cases around the state, which would put the healthcare infrastructure at risk.

The cruise lines are going to be watching that case count very closely in Florida, as that is where the industry want to initially restart sailings.

Despite the fact Royal Caribbean has pledged 100% testing of its passengers and crew, a rising case count is not good for any business and the cruise lines need a stable situation at home.

The CDC will either lift or extend its ban

Perhaps the most critical step for Royal Caribbean is the end of the prohibition against cruises operating from the United States.

Closer to the end of October, U.S. Center for Disease Control will make the decision to extend or lift the No Sail order

In the meantime, the cruise operators are in the process of bringing back a lot of their crew to ensure that if they do get the green light from the CDC, that they have a staff available to set sail.

One of the major takeaways from the meeting last week was the cruise line's proposal will be presented to the Task Force in order to provide a recommendation to President Donald Trump with regard to next steps on the CDC’s No Sail Order.

A lot of what happens over the next couple of weeks could factor into what happens to the No Sail order.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: October 11, 2020

In:
11Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

I hope everyone reading this is having a wonderful Sunday and enjoying some time this weekend with friends, family and some good food too.  There was a lot of Royal Caribbean news this week, and we have summarized all up into one easy-to-read blog post for your convenience!

The BIG news this week is Royal Caribbean is about to restart cruises finally, with Quantum of the Seas sailing again from Singapore in December.

Royal Caribbean received permission from the Singapore government to conduct roundtrip 3- and 4-night cruises from Singapore that have no port stops.

Quantum of the Seas will sail at a maximum of 50% capacity, and is limited to only residents of Singapore.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

This week's cruise story takes us to Bermuda, where Joe wanted to visit this beautiful island again on Anthem of the Seas.

Joe shares what his second time visiting Bermuda was like, and some of the memorable stories from his family vacation.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it

New RCB Video: The Worst Things EVERYONE Does on a cruise!

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — The Worst Things EVERYONE Does on a cruise! — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Where and when will you have to wear a mask on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

Of all the new rules Royal Caribbean is adding, having to wear a mask is among the most discordant issue of them all.

Wearing a mask will be a requirement on a Royal Caribbean cruise, but there are rules about where and when you can take it off.

Check out our breakdown of what the face mask rules are, so you will be prepared when cruises begin!

Could crew members returning be a sign Royal Caribbean is serious about cruises restarting?

In:
10Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

If cruise fans are looking for an indication that cruises might be resuming, the return of crew members is a good sign.

With Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines hinting at the possibility of cruises restarting before the end of the year, crew rehirings could be a sign of what is coming next.

CNBC's Seema Mody reported cruise operators are in the process of "bringing back a lot of their crew that were sent overseas" so that there is staff available to set sail if the CDC allows cruise lines to resume sailings.

All over social media, there have been postings by crew members that they are hearing from colleagues of being hired back, or even evidence they have been rehired. As with any social media posts, it is important take these claims with a grain of salt, but every day there seems to be more evidence of crew reporting they are going back.

One such post provided detailed instructions for other crew members on what to expect when they report back for duty, and the many quarantine and testing procedures they will need to follow.

In addition, crew hiring opportunities are even popping up online that could possibly indicate that the cruise line is serious restart plans.

Royal Caribbean does not usually announce crew movements or hirings, but there seems to be a lot of ancillary evidence that a general strategy is in place.

The game plan for cruises to restart

Royal Caribbean has been very transparent about how it sees cruises restarting in the United States.

The basic plan is to have a few test cruises that involve crew members and Royal Caribbean employees only that can simulate a real cruise in order to gauge the effectiveness of all their new policies.

Following those test sailings, short cruises to a private destination only would be offered. If all goes well, Royal Caribbean could then start adding back longer sailings.

This game plan follows the recommendations of the Healthy Sail Panel, as well as what cruise line executives have said over the last few weeks.

As it relates to hiring back crew, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said recently that they will need crew back in order to start up the test sailings.

"We propose to start slowly by training our crew and embarking on a series of non-revenue test sailings, where we can rehearse and we can validate the new protocols."

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships are currently at minimum manning, so in order for any test sailings to occur, they need crew back to simulate as closely as possible real-world scenarios.

Cruise lines meet with Vice President Pence to discuss cruises restarting

In:
09Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

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.

Royal Caribbean offering up to 45% pre-cruise purchases this weekend

In:
09Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean has a new discount on pre-cruise purchases made this weekend on things like drink packages, shore excursions, internet and more.

The Seas the Deals sale is valid between October 9 - 14, 2020 on sailings from December 1, 2020 - October 31, 2021.

It is valid on all ships, except for Spectrum of the Seas.

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: Discount varies by ship.
  • Refreshment Package: 40% off onboard prices

SHORE EXCURSIONS: Up to 40% off

  • SHORE EXCURSIONS: Up to 40% off

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 Majesty of the Seas)

ACTIVITIES: 20% off

  • All Access Ship Tour: (Sailings from 12/1/20 – 12/31/20, Excludes BR, JW, NE, OV, OY, QN, RD, SR, VY)

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

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.

Where and when will you have to wear a mask on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
09Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Perhaps no other new protocol for cruise ship guests is as hotly debated as the role masks will play when cruises resume.

Wearing a mask has unfortunately become a divisive topic, and many RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers have voiced their disdain (or indifference) to wearing a mask once cruises resume.

With Royal Caribbean releasing its new Royal Promise health protocols, here is a look at what the new rules say about wearing a mask onboard.

Masks will be required

Wearing a mask in some, but not all, areas of the cruise ship will be compulsory when cruises resume in Singapore (and elsewhere eventually) in December.

All guests and crew will be required to wear a mask onboard.

Specifically, Royal Caribbean says guests should wear face masks in nearly all public settings regardless of physical distancing measures but will not be required to wear face masks in their own stateroom.

There are exceptions, however, such as dining venues, where guests can eat and drink without face masks while seated, provided physical distancing is observed. All restaurant seating will be arranged to allow for physical distancing, so guests can eat and drink without face masks while seated, and tables and chairs will be disinfected.

Also, guests should not wear masks while engaged in activities that may cause the mask to become wet, like when swimming in our pools, or when participating in strenuous activities, such as jogging, running, or fitness classes at the Vitality Spa and Fitness Center.

Face masks will be required at all bars or nightclubs when not seated and actively eating or drinking with your party. 

Crew members will wear masks at all times, and gloves.

Types of masks not allowed

Not every kind of mask will be allowed, with the cruise line following 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.

The following type of masks are not allowed on Royal Caribbean:

  • neck gaiters
  • open chin bandanas and scarves
  • face masks with valves

How will Royal Caribbean enforce face mask protocols?

You will find safety ambassadors on its cruise ships who will be tasked with enforcing the Guest Health, Safety, and Conduct Policy as well as the cruise line Refusal to Transport Policy.

Shoreside, safety ambassador teams will work with local authorities to enforce both our Guest Health, Safety, and Conduct Policy and any applicable laws.

Failure to follow any of our policies or any applicable laws may result in enforcement action, up to and including denial of boarding or removal from Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

Masks are a temporary change

If having to wear a mask on a cruise is a deal breaker for you, then the good news is it is not intended to be a permanent change.

The Healthy Sail 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.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke about the need for masks initially, "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."

What happened to Royal Caribbean's first cruise ship?

In:
09Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean just celebrated the 51st anniversary of the cruise line's founding, and in all those years, you may recall Royal Caribbean's first cruise ship.

Photo by John Emery

Song of Norway was the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship, and it was a revolution in its own right that paved the way for every other cruise ship and advancement the cruise line would have later.

So what happened to Royal Caribbean's first cruise ship and where is it now?

Birth of a cruise nation

Before Royal Caribbean began operations, cruise ships were built for point-to-point ocean transportation with significantly less open space. Royal Caribbean sought to change all of that with its concept of a cruise ship.

Song of Norway is what we now call a real market disruptor when she debuted. She launched in 1970, and was the first cruise ship ever built for warm-weather cruising.

The concept of a Viking Crown Lounge was designed initially for Song of Norway, which some industry insiders felt was a "crazy idea" that later just became "that funny-looking stack."

Included in her many firsts was the open pool and lounging area, which is now an industry standard on any new cruise ship.

Song of Norway's debut instantly changed the landscape of Caribbean cruises, and her near-instant success provided Royal Caribbean the capital to afford more ships and proved they had the right idea about what people wanted in a cruise ship.

She could carry 724 passengers until she became the first passenger ship to be lengthened and then had a capacity of 1,024 passengers.

Departing the fleet

Song of Norway was the pride of Royal Caribbean's fleet for many years, and served for over 25 years as part of Royal Caribbean.

As the decades passed, she was quickly dwarfed by bigger ships in the industry and within Royal Caribbean. The debut of Sovereign of the Seas, the first "mega cruise ship" in 1988, did to Song of Norway what she had done to the rest of the industry two decades earlier.

Royal Caribbean sold the ship in 1996 to sold to Sun Cruises (part of the Airtours). They changed her name to Sundream.

One major change made to the ship prior to sailing in her home was the Viking Crown Lounge was removed.

Different owners

The latter years of Song of Norway were marked by moving from new owner to new owner.

In October 2004 she was sold again, refitted and became MS Dream Princess for Caspi Cruises, where she sailed from Israel.

In November 2007, she was sold to Pearl Owner Ltd. She was refitted chartered to the Peace Boat organization and renamed the Clipper Pacific, where she was charted to the Peace Boat organization and renamed Clipper Pacific.

By now, mechanical issues were catching up, and Clipper Pacific's world tours had to conclude earlier than scheduled.

Once again, the ship was sold to International Shipping Partners, Inc. and renamed Festival.

She came into service again as a cruise ship, first in 2009 for Caspi Cruises and as of 2010 for Quail Travel's Happy Cruises.  For the 2010 and 2011 seasons, under the name M/V Ocean Pearl.

Final years

Photo by Tony Hisgett

By the 2010s, the end was in sight for Song of Norway (now sailing as MS Ocean Pearl) in China as a floating casino.

Her last voyages were under the name Formosa Queen, which were operated by Asia Star Cruises as a gambling ship. 

Then in November 2013, she met her fate when was sold for scrap and she was broken up in China in 2014.

Song of Norway had many firsts over the years, including the first Royal Caribbean ship to go to the scrap yard.

Royal Caribbean will not have a dinner buffet option on first cruises back

In:
08Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

The first Royal Caribbean cruises that restart in Singapore in December will feature a few less experiences and venues.

Royal Caribbean indicated that certain onboard venues or experiences will operate differently or not be available at all, at least initially.

Specifically, Royal Caribbean states on its website that the Windjammer buffet will not be open for dinner while there is reduced capacity onboard.

Buffets will now be served by crew rather than self-service, and more covered or wrapped grab-and-go items will be made available for your convenience at buffets and cafes around the ship.

In addition, reservations for the Windjammer buffet will be recommended, but not completely necessary. Royal Caribbean says they will "gladly" accommodate walk-ins when availability permits, but reservations are recommended for the Windjammer buffet due to limited capacity.

In addition, while most onboard experiences will be operating normally, some will not due to health concerns including:

  • Laser Tag
  • Parades
  • Themed parties
  • Karaoke

All venues will be operating with reduced capacity (mirroring the reduced capacity of the ship) to allow for physical distancing, and some will operate with adjusted or extended hours.

All restaurant seating will be arranged to allow for physical distancing, so guests can eat and drink without face masks while seated, and tables and chairs will be disinfected regularly.

All crew will wear face masks and gloves at all times.

Restaurants and bars will feature QR codes that will let you view menus right on your phone.

Protocols will change over time

If this sounds awful, fret not, because Royal Caribbean has said repeatedly that it intends to change and evolve these policies over time.

The first cruises back will have the most stringent rules, but many of these sort of protocols are not expected to be permanent.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain recently confirmed these sort of changes are not forever, "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."

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.

Odyssey of the Seas construction photo update - October 8, 2020

In:
08Oct2020
By: Matt Hochberg

While the official Meyer Werft shipyard webcam has not been updated in over two weeks, the shipyard did provide a new photo of Odyssey of the Seas elsewhere.

In a promotion for tours resuming of the shipyard, a new construction photo has been posted of Royal Caribbean's next new cruise ship.

Meyer Werft's visitor center attracts 250,000 visitors every year, and is home right now to Odyssey and AIDAcosma from AIDA Cruises.

The building dock can be viewed from the 3,500 square meter visitor center on the shipyard site. 

Odyssey of the Seas is under construction in Hall 6 of the German shipyard and this new photo provides a great look at the front of the vessel.

Odyssey of the Seas is due to be delivered to Royal Caribbean 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.

Odyssey has been under construction since the steel cutting ceremony in February 2019, but delivery was delayed due to the impact of the global health crisis.

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