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Coronavirus

Royal Caribbean creates new medical officer role to keep cruise ships safe from COVID-19

In:
28Jul2020

Royal Caribbean Group has hired someone to oversee all health concerns and initiatives on its cruise ships, including keeping crew and guests safe from COVID-19.

On Tuesday, the parent company of Royal Caribbean International announced it has hired Dr. Calvin Johnson as the Global Head, Public Health and Chief Medical Officer.

This new role will tackle the needs of the global health and wellness policy, manage its public health and clinical practice, and determine the strategic plans and operations of its global healthcare organization.

In addition, Dr. Johnson will  collaborate with the Healthy Sail Panel to ensure the company establishes and implements its protocols and recommendations. 

Dr. Johnson, most recently Principal at Altre Strategic Solutions Group, is the former Chief Medical Officer for Corizon Health, then the largest provider of correctional health care in the United States, and for Temple University Health System. He served as Secretary of Health for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania from 2003-2008 and was Medical Director for the New York City Department of Health from 1998-1999. He earned his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, a Master of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, and a BS in Chemistry from Morehouse College.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain commented in a statement on the hiring of Dr. Johnson, "Calvin's extensive experience in public health and clinical care will help us raise the bar on protecting the health of our guests, crew and the communities we serve. Calvin will also work closely with the newly announced Healthy Sail Panel to ensure we establish and implement leading health protocols and procedures."

Dr. Johnson has a strong background in protecting public health through service delivery innovation, policy development and analysis, and leadership training and development. He has successfully led significant response efforts during active infectious disease outbreaks and was responsible for ensuring all aspects of patient care while overseeing a clinical operation with 1,300 caregivers and more than 300,000 individuals.  

This is not the first time Royal Caribbean created a corporate role to address a sudden need to protect guests and crew.

Royal Caribbean created the role of Chief Meteorologist and hired James Van Fleet, following a high profile weather incident involving Anthem of the Seas.

A German cruise line has started up again, and it could be a preview of what to expect on Royal Caribbean

In:
Category: 
27Jul2020

On Friday, German cruise line TUI Cruises started cruising once again and it might offer a preview of what a Royal Caribbean could look like when they restart.

Royal Caribbean is a 50% owner of a joint venture that operates TUI Cruises, and the Mein Schiff 2 set sail on Friday with about 1,200 passengers onboard.

The ship sailed with about 60% capacity onboard in order to promote social distancing, a concept Royal Caribbean has said they will initially implement on its ships when they start sailing again.

USA Today reported passengers and crew onboard are required to stay five  feet away or wear protective masks and won’t serve themselves at the ship’s buffet. All passengers filled out a health questionnaire before boarding and had temperature checks.

In addition, TUI Group (parent company to TUI Cruises) noted they had "implemented comprehensive health and safety protocols on board."

The itinerary for this sailing was a departure from Hamburg, Germany that would sail to no ports, before returning to Germany on Monday. This is an intentional move to stick to short and restrictive sailings.

Germany is now in the process of reopening its economy, with strict guidelines on social distancing, mask use and personal hygiene measures.

CDC wants to hear how you think cruise lines should restart cruising

In:
Category: 
24Jul2020

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants to hear from people and organizations comments and questions about cruise lines resuming passenger operations.

The Federal organization has filed a new opportunity for the public to comment and submit questions that the CDC will use in formulating a new policy for cruise ships.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), announces a Request for Information related to cruise ship planning and infrastructure, resumption of passenger operations, and additional summary questions. This information may be used to inform future public health guidance and preventative measures relating to travel on cruise ships.

The CDC recently extended its "No Sail" order through the end of September, and it now requests comments from the public that will be used to inform future public health guidance and preventative measures relating to travel on cruise ships.

Specific questions

The CDC wants public participation specifically on the following topics:

1. Given the challenges of eliminating COVID-19 on board cruise ships while operating with reduced crew on board during the period of the April 15, 2020 No Sail Order Extension, what methods, strategies, and practices should cruise ship operators implement to prevent COVID-19 transmission when operating with passengers?

2. How should cruise ship operators bolster their internal public health programs with public health experts and invest in a robust public health infrastructure to ensure compliance with measures to detect, prevent, and control the spread of COVID-19?

3. How should cruise ship operators ensure internal public health programs Start Printed Page 44084are involved in all levels of decision-making processes relating to passenger and crew operations, crew welfare and mental health, occupational health, food safety, potable and recreational water safety, outbreak prevention and management response, and illness surveillance?

4. What is the feasibility of conducting COVID-19 diagnostic testing using FDA-approved or authorized laboratory tests on board a cruise ship?

a. Should specimens be tested on board or should specimens be collected on board for commercial testing onshore?

b. How frequently should cruise ship operators test all passengers and crew?

c. What would be the anticipated financial cost of testing all passengers and crew?

5. Because reports of illness may lead to restrictions on crew activities, how should cruise ship operators encourage crew members to report mild symptoms of COVID-like illness to medical personnel?

a. How should cruise ship operators encourage medical personnel to report these cases to CDC?

6. What should be the medical capacity to manage an outbreak or a severe case of COVID-19 on board the ship?

a. What arrangements should cruise ship operators have with private companies to transport and obtain medical care shoreside for passengers and crew with severe COVID-19?

7. What pre-arrangements should be made to ensure that all U.S. seaport communities will accept a returning ship after a COVID-19 outbreak is identified?

8. What plans should cruise ship operators have for operationalizing shoreside quarantine facilities in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak on board a ship, without exposing the public and without relying on Federal, State, or local resources?

9. Due to obstacles with commercial travel thus far, what pre-arrangements should cruise ship operators make with the airline industry to accept crew and passengers from ships not affected by COVID-19?

10. How should cruise ship operators address specific country travel restrictions that emerge as COVID-19 activity increases in geographical areas, such as

a. border closures preventing passengers and crew from repatriating?

b. seaport closures preventing porting of ships?

c. embarking passengers originating from countries with heightened COVID-19 activity?

11. What measures should cruise ship operators be required to take to reduce the burden on U.S. government resources if foreign seaports deny cruise ships the ability to come into port during a voyage?

12. Given difficulties cruise ship operators have experienced when repatriating crew via non-commercial transportation, what preparations should the industry make to repatriate passengers or crew via non-commercial transportation after COVID-19 is identified on board?

13. What innovations should cruise ship operators develop to reduce transmission of COVID-19 on board ships and how would these innovations be effective?

14. Should cruise ship operators implement other interventions to decrease or prevent the spread of COVID-19 on board ships?

15. What evidence of efficacy or other rationale exists for any public health interventions that cruise ship operators propose to take on board ships?

16. What steps should cruise ship operators take to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 onto ships after resuming passenger operations?

a. Should cruise ship operators deny boarding to passengers with COVID-like illness or confirmed infection with COVID-19?

b. Should cruise ship operators deny boarding to passengers with known exposure to a person with COVID-19 during the previous 14 days?

c. What methods should cruise ship operators use to screen for exposures and detect COVID-like illness in passengers seeking to board the ship?

d. Should cruise ship operators deny boarding to passengers coming from COVID-19 high-incidence geographic areas?

e. How should cruise ship operators manage embarking crew with COVID-like illness, known exposure, or coming from high-incidence geographic areas after resuming passenger operations?

f. Should cruise ship operators test passengers and crew pre-boarding? If yes, what should the testing protocol be?

g. Should cruise ship operators transport and house passengers and crew denied boarding at the seaport to avoid exposing the public?

17. Should cruise ship operators plan to reduce passenger and crew loads to decrease the risk of transmission on board the ship?

a. To what extent and for how long should cruise ship operators reduce passenger capacity?

b. To what extent might reducing passenger capacity affect the economic viability of cruise lines?

c. Should cruise ship operators be required to provide scientific evidence that reducing passenger capacity will prevent transmission on board?

18. Should cruise ship operators decrease the length of voyages and, if so, by how much?

a. How would decreasing the length of voyages affect the transmission of COVID-19 on board the ship and in U.S. communities?

b. Should cruise ship operators be required to provide scientific evidence that reducing length of voyages would decrease the risk of further introduction of COVID-19 to U.S. communities?

19. Should cruise ship operators limit shore excursions?

a. What precautions should cruise ship operators take during shore excursions to prevent passengers and crew from being exposed to COVID-19?

b. During shore excursions, how should cruise ship operators prevent transmission of COVID-19 into land-based communities?

20. Should cruise ship operators restrict the number of persons per room (e.g., maximum capacity of 2 adults per cabin)?

a. Should cruise ship operators be required to provide single-occupancy rooms with private bathrooms for crew after resuming passenger operations?

21. What mental health services should cruise ship operators provide to crew and passengers during quarantine or isolation?

22. What precautions should the cruise line industry take to safely disembark passengers and crew without transmitting COVID-19 into local seaport communities?

23. Should the cruise line industry immediately cancel cruise voyages if COVID-19 cases are identified on board or after disembarkation?

24. Because of the economic costs associated with cruising, some cruise ship passengers may be reluctant to cancel travel plans if they become ill or are exposed to COVID-19 or may try to hide symptoms of illness. Should cruise ship operators fully refund or provide incentives to passengers that:

a. Are denied boarding due to COVID-like illness symptoms, confirmed infection, or known exposure?

b. are denied boarding due to coming from high-incidence geographic areas?

c. request last-minute cancellations due to COVID-19 concerns?

25. Due to the costs associated with seeking medical care on board, and the likelihood that sick passengers will be isolated and their travel companions quarantined for the remainder of their voyage, how should cruise ship operators encourage passengers to notify the medical center when they experience COVID-19 symptoms?

26. How should cruise ship operators decrease or eliminate the risk for COVID-19 transmission for both passengers and crew in the following group settings?

a. Embarkation and disembarkation?

b. Safety drills and trainings?

c. Dining?

d. Onboard entertainment events?

e. Shore excursions?

27. What benefits can be expected in terms of averted deaths and illnesses and how does this compare to the expected financial costs of the above measures?

28. Should cruise ship operators be required to designate a responsible company official who will accept legal responsibility for failure to implement measures to protect public health?

How to submit comments or questions to the CDC

You may submit comments, identified by Docket No. CDC-2020-0087 by any of the following methods listed below.

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: https://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments.
  • Mail: Maritime Unit, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1600 Clifton Road NE, MS V18-2, Atlanta, GA 30329.

CDC does not accept comment by email.

Written comments must be received on or before September 21, 2020.

Royal Caribbean extends flexible cancellation policy by an additional 2 months

In:
22Jul2020

Royal Caribbean informed travel partners on Wednesday they have extended its popular Cruise with Confidence policy by another two months.

Cruise with Confidence now allows cancellations up to 48-hours prior to sailing, in exchange for a 100% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) on sailings through April 2022 for bookings made on or before September 30, 2020.

There is no change to the policy parameters, which was originally announced on March 6, 2020 in an effort to give consumer a higher level of trust that they could change their mind later if they do not want to cruise.

Under the program, should you change your mind about a booked sailing, Cruise with Confidence offers the flexibility to cancel up to 48-hours prior to the sail date in exchange for a 100% Future Cruise Credit.

Cruise with Confidence is applicable to guests booked on-or-before September 30, 2020 on sailings departing through April 2022 (all open deployment as of July 22, 2020).

Ordinarily, guests would incur a penalty for canceling a sailing beyond the final payment date, which is typically 90 days before a sailing commences. Cruise with Confidence provides a great deal more flexibility to change minds with no penalty.

In addition to Cruise with Confidence, guests can still take advantage of "Best Price Guarantee" and "Lift and Shift."

  • Best Price Guarantee: Guests can choose to change the price and promotional offer on their reservation up to 48 hours before their cruise.
  • Lift and Shift: This option is ideal for those guests wishing to move their vacation plans to next year. Eligible between now and September 30, 2020, guests can protect their original cruise fare and promotional offering by shifting to a future sailing on the same itinerary type, sailing length, stateroom category, and within the same 4-week period of their original cruise date same-time-next-year.

“Guests are reacting positively to our Cruise with Confidence policy,” says Royal Caribbean Group chairman and CEO Richard Fain, “because it enables them to make informed decisions and to better manage complicated travel plans during this unprecedented time of uncertainty.”

Currently, Royal Caribbean has cancelled all of its sailings through September 30th, 2020.

Helpful resources:

What needs to happen before cruises can start again

In:
Category: 
21Jul2020

Everyone wants to know when cruises will truly restart again, especially in North America or Europe.

While the answer is nobody knows when it may happen, there are some important steps that need to occur first in order for Royal Caribbean and other lines to start up again.

The general public is not privy to every single step that may need to occur, but there are some big tasks remaining in the way of cruise ships welcoming guests back onboard.

New policies submitted and approved by CDC

By all accounts, the first step for cruise lines to resume service is to come up with a plan on how they will keep guests safe.

When the CDC instituted the first "No Sail" Order in March, they required each cruise line to submit a plan for protecting people on their cruise ships.

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line are addressing this by the formation of the Healthy Sail Panel, which is actively working on creating new procedures to institute aboard cruise ships. Thus far, it sounds like the first set of recommendations by the panel will be shared by the end of August, with further revisions and additional recommendations coming later.

Once the full plan is in place, Royal Caribbean will submit it to the CDC for approval. 

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain recently said, "We won't come back until we're absolutely sure that we've done everything we can to work to protect the safety of our guests and crew."

End of the No Sail Order

The next biggest hurdle for the cruise industry is the end of the "No Sail" order that formally prohibits cruise lines from operating with passengers onboard.

The CDC has extended the order two times already, and it is currently slated to end September 30, 2020. Of course, that could be extended again.

There is no clear indication of when the CDC will loosen the reigns on the cruise industry, but it stands to reason that two things need to likely occur:

  • The public health emergency needs to subside
  • The cruise line needs to have approval for a safe return to cruising with their submitted plan

There very well could be additional steps required for the prohibition to be rescinded, but as long as it stands, there will be no cruises regardless of anything else.

Outside the United States

The "No Sail" order is applied by a U.S. agency, and that mandate does not apply outside the United States. Therefore, cruises could return sooner in other parts of the world.

Currently, China cruises are only cancelled through the end of July. European cruises have been cancelled at the same time as North American cruises, but perhaps that would change going forward.

Ports need to reopen

Some countries have started to re-open their borders to international travel, and a few have already closed back down. Regardless, cruise ships need somewhere to go for cruises to start back up.

More than likely, if the CDC were to allow cruises to start back up again, there would be a few ports of call that would be open by that point, but it is still anyone's guess as to which would open when.

Cruises to Canada are a foregone conclusion that were will be nothing offered there, and other countries that have traditionally seen cruise traffic area also shut down.

These countries rely heavily on tourism, and re-opening the ports are as important to them as the cruise lines, but the safety of their people is what is driving the current policies.

Start-up plan announced

One of the last major steps to look for is a plan of action of which cruise ships will begin sailing and when.

While the cruise line's plans are not completely certain, Royal Caribbean executives have commented they believe cruises will resume with just a handful of ships at first, with a phased approach to bringing the entire fleet back.

When will this happen?

The steps outlined in this post are merely the basics, and while you might be wondering how soon these could occur, it truly is anyone's guess.

What we know about the virus is changing on a near-daily basis, advances on a vaccine are moving long swiftly, and new announcements by the cruise lines and various governments provide a new outlook almost as quickly as the old ones they replaced.

While no one has a crystal ball that can predict when these steps will take place, these changes are a good way to measure progress towards getting back to life at sea.

The answer of when cruises will resume may be better determined by looking out your window and seeing when life begins to return to some kind of normalcy. The sooner daily life starts back up, the less impediments the cruise lines will have to face in starting up again.

Bahamas closes its borders to cruise ships

In:
20Jul2020

The Bahamas is one of the most popular Caribbean countries for cruise lines, and it announced they will not welcome cruise ships to their countries due to the global health pandemic.

The Bahamas had reopened their borders earlier this month, but announced ocean-going vessels with commercial passengers will not be permitted to enter the Bahamas starting Wednesday.

Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis made the announcement on Sunday, citing a spike in cases in the United States, "Regrettably, the situation here at home has already deteriorated since we began the reopening of our domestic economy. It has deteriorated at an exponential rate since we reopened our international borders."

The Bahamas added any cruise ships that allow passengers to board without a required mask or health visa will face a fine of $500 per passenger in violation.

The Prime Minister's address did not include when the new prohibition would expire.

The announcement by the Bahamas to prevent travel by air or sea to their country follows the CDC's extension of the "No Sail" order through the end of September.

The Bahamas is one of the busiest countries in the Caribbean for cruise ship traffic, and home to one of Royal Caribbean's private destinations in Perfect Day at CocoCay.

In addition, Royal Caribbean had recently invested quite a lot of resources into two new projects in the Bahamas. In March, Royal Caribbean announced it would build a new Royal Beach Club property at the western end of Paradise Island in The Bahamas.

Royal Caribbean also has plans for a $300 million investment in Freeport, Grand Bahama that will redevelop the Freeport cruise ship terminal to bring a new world-class destination with a one-of-a-kind hotel, convention center, water adventure park and more.

The current health crisis sidelined both projects for the time being, but they appear to be still planned for the future.

Royal Caribbean delays new Oasis Class ship arrival in 2021

In:
18Jul2020

Royal Caribbean's next new Oasis Class cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas, has been officially delayed from her scheduled 2021 arrival.

Royal Caribbean China posted an update in Chinese on its website that the next new Oasis Class cruise ship will not arrive as scheduled.

"The construction of the new Oasis Class Wonder of the Seas was delayed due to the impact of the shipyard operation. Royal Caribbean had to delay the deployment of the Wonder of the Seas from a Chinese home port. However, we look forward to the arrival of the Wonder of the Seas after the epidemic has been brought under control as soon as possible."

Screenshot of the translated announcement on Royal Caribbean China website

There is no new timeframe for when Wonder of the Seas will sail.

Wonder of the Seas is the second cruise ship under construction to be delayed, following the announcement that Odyssey of the Seas will be delayed until April 2021.

Dr. Zinan Liu, Chairman of Royal Caribbean Cruises Asia commented on the announcement, "Royal Caribbean always firmly believes that the fundamentals of China’s economy have not changed due to the epidemic and that the trend of the cruise market will continue to develop. After the public health risks are controlled, people pursue social interactions. The instincts of reunion and leisure will not change, or even be strengthened. Royal Caribbean has prepared three lines of defense for the health and safety of tourists and crew under the new normal of epidemic prevention, including source control of viruses, multiple monitoring on board, prevention and isolation measures and emergency plans in case of an outbreak. We are fully prepared to show the public that the Royal Caribbean Cruise is a safe place."

Prior to this announcement, Wonder of the Seas was due to arrive in 2021 as the world's largest cruise ship and first Oasis Class ship to sail the Asia Pacific.

The new ship is currently under construction in Saint-Nazaire, France.

"Royal Caribbean is known for its innovation and constantly pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and an Oasis Class ship in China is proof of that," said Michael Bayley, President and CEO, Royal Caribbean International. “Wonder of the Seas will redefine the ultimate vacation and be revolutionary in her own right, and she marks one of Royal Caribbean’s most exciting chapters to come."

In early May 2020, Royal Caribbean told its investors it believes COVID-19 has impacted shipyard operations and will result in delivery delays of ships previously planned for delivery in 2020 and 2021.

Royal Caribbean extends cruise cancellations until October due to CDC No Sail Order extension

In:
Category: 
17Jul2020

Following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcement it has extended the "No Sail Order" until September 30, Royal Caribbean has extended its voluntary cruise suspension through the same time period.

Royal Caribbean confirmed on Friday that its new target date to resume operations is October 1, 2020.

Royal Caribbean's website has been updated to reflect the new dates.

In statement on the Royal Caribbean Group website, the cruise line will indeed match the CDC's guidelines.

The health and safety of our guests, crew and the communities we visit is our top priority. As we work with the CDC and others toward this shared goal, Royal Caribbean Group will be extending the suspension of sailings to include those departing on or before September 30, 2020.

CDC's ban was set to expire on July 24, although most other cruise lines had already extended their voluntary cruise suspensions through the end of September.

Compensation

Guests affected by the cancelled cruises between September 16 - 30, 2020 have three options for compensation.

Lift & Shift: Select next year’s sailing with the same itinerary type, sailing length, stateroom category, and within the same 4-week window of the original cruise date, and you can take your existing reservation and move it to next year.Option expires on August 5, 2020.

125% Future Cruise Credit: To account for the inconvenience this has caused, guests are eligible for a 125% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) that is based on the total cruise fare paid at the guest-level and will be automatically issued on-or-before July 31, 2020 — if neither of the other options is selected.

Taxes and fees, as well as any pre-purchased amenities or onboard packages will be automatically refunded to the original form of payment within 45 days from the cancellation date. 

If you previously opted to take advantage of our Cruise with Confidence policy, the 100% FCC will stand, and this new option is ineligible.

Additionally, if you redeemed your Cruise with Confidence Future Cruise Credit on a sailing that is now cancelled, their original FCC will be reinstated, plus 125% of any amount paid by the guest on the cancelled reservation.

A FCC will be automatically issued on or before August 26, 2020, if no other option is selected.

Refund: If you prefer a cash refund, you can do so by requesting this option on-or-before December 31, 2020.

You can expect their refund to the original form of payment within 45 days from the cancellation date. 

If you redeemed a Cruise with Confidence Future Cruise Credit on an impacted sailing and would now prefer a refund instead, Royal Caribbean will process this request in the amount of any new funds paid above the original certificate and, in turn, will reinstate the Cruise with Confidence FCC for future use.

Cruise Planner Purchases: If you had purchased any cruise add-ons, such as shore excursions, drink packages, wifi and more, you could opt to convert your Cruise Planner purchases  to an Onboard Credit valued at 125% of the total amount paid. This offer expires on August 5, 2020.

Inside the No Sail Order

The CDC announced its extension of the order as a means of preventing cruise ships from sailing out of concern cruise ships would spread COVID-19.

In the No Sail Order, the CDC Director outlined the rationale for the order being concern of the impact of infected cruise passengers creating problems after the cruise concluces.

The CDC's Director specifies information from epidemiologic and other data found in March and April 2020 determined that measures taken by State and local authorities regarding COVID-19 onboard cruise ships were "inadequate to prevent the further spread of the disease".

CDC extends "No Sail Order" ban on cruise ships through September 30

In:
Category: 
16Jul2020

The regulation chiefly responsible for preventing cruise ships from resuming sailing in the United States has been extended once again, this time through the end of September.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday it has extended its no sail order for cruise ships through September 30, 2020.

Prior to this extension, the "No Sail Order" was set to expire on July 24, although Royal Caribbean had already voluntarily cancelled most of its cruises through September 15, 2020, with the intention to possibly resume September 16.

Royal Caribbean has not yet commented or announced changes as a result of today's announcement.

This is the second time the "No Sail Order" has been extended, after first being implemented on March 13.

The CDC extended its policy to prevent cruise ships from sailing out of concern cruise ships would spread COVID-19, despite airlines operating flights, Las Vegas hotels and casinos re-opening, major theme parks re-opening, and other tourist destinations resuming operations.

In fact, by late January 2020, the RAND National Security Research Division found, "infections of COVID-19 were likely being exported from China, via commercial air travel, on a daily basis."

To date, the CDC has not shut down any airline operations.

What is the No Sail Order?

The No Sail Order and Suspension of Further Embarkation is a policy of the CDC that restricts the embarkation of passengers on top cruise ships in the United States due to the global health crisis.

Like the previous orders, this order will remain in effect until one of the following occurs:

  • The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency,
  • The CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations, or
  • September 30, 2020.

Royal Caribbean's plan

The extension of the "No Sail Order" is probably not a surprise to most, and Royal Caribbean already has a plan in place to protect guests and crew on its ships, as well as address the CDC specifically.

Royal Caribbean's Healthy Sail Panel is a blue ribbon panel of health experts that are tasked not only with creating policies and procedures for its ships, but satisfy the concern of the CDC that people can go on a cruise vacation safely.

A majority of the panelists have worked at the United States Centers for Disease Control, providing the group with insight into what the CDC will be expecting.

Furthermore, the CDC has been made aware of the panel and even invited to observe the planning and creation of procedures. They will apply the best available public health, science and engineering insights. 

Ultimately, the Healthy Sail Panel will be working to address any and all concerns the CDC might have that would prevent Royal Caribbean from starting cruising again.

No, nobody knows if the cruise you have booked will actually sail

In:
Category: 
13Jul2020

The one question readers are asking is if their upcoming cruise in 2020 or 2021 will sail, and the simple answer is no one knows.

While Royal Caribbean currently plans to resume operations on October 1, 2020, the cruise line has pushed back its date cruises will restart a number of times, which leaves many wondering if their cruise they have booked will happen.

While the "TL;DR" answer is "no one knows", here is a look at why no one knows and what we should be looking for to get a better idea of when cruises might restart.

No way to know if your cruise will sail

So many people with cruises booked that have not been cancelled yet want to know what are the chances their cruise will happen.

The most commonly asked question I have seen in the last few months is what are the odds a sailing will be able to go, but unfortunately no one knows because there is not enough information available and too many variables to make such a prediction.

Since Royal Caribbean started its global suspension of cruises in March, the cruise line has taken a "wait and see" approach to cruises resuming. They have periodically cancelled about a month worth of cruises at a time, and evaluate the ever-changing situation to determine if more cruises need to be cancelled.

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Service Vicki Freed said recently with the current climate, "things can change rather quickly," and that, "we all have to take it day by day."

At this point, there is not nearly enough information available to have insight into what Royal Caribbean (or any cruise line) is looking for in order to resume sailings.

While it stands to reason the further out your cruise is, the more time you have for the global health situation to improve, it is impossible to quantify or wager a guess as to which sailings may or may not occur.

Simply put, no one knows when exactly cruises will be able to resume sailings because the public does not have a list of milestones for Royal Caribbean to reach to start up again.

Challenges ahead

This much is clear: in order for cruises to resume, some obvious tasks need to be completed.  

This is not the complete list of what Royal Caribbean (or any cruise line) must do, but they are some of the critical steps.

Create and submit a health and safety policy

The first step to starting up again is to come up with a plan of action to keep crew and guests safe, and Royal Caribbean announced this step is underway.

Announced last week, the Healthy Sail Panel is a group of public health experts that will create a list of recommendations that will include things like enhanced embarkation screening, temperature screenings at the pier, testing options for guests and crew.

The panel's initial findings are expected by late August, and further work and refinement to come in the months after.

Once Royal Caribbean receives the recommendations, they will incorporate them into a new set of policies for the cruise line.

Government approval to sail

After Royal Caribbean crafts its new policy, it will need to submit them to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for approval.

Currently, cruise lines are under a 100-day No Sail Order that extends through the end of July, although that could be extended.

Government restrictions and warnings have been chiefly responsible for the decision of all cruise lines to suspend operations and subsequently remain idle. Until the CDC signs off, cruising seems unlikely.

Ports of call need to open up

Even if cruises were allowed to resume immediately, many foreign ports of call remain closed to cruise traffic and/or Americans.

Royal Caribbean's ships must make at least one stop in a foreign port to satisfy the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which requires foreign flagged vessels to stop outside the United States. Essentially, it means Royal Caribbean cannot offer "cruises to nowhere".

While some Caribbean and European ports are beginning to open their borders again, cruise lines need much greater access to start back up again.

Substantial reduction in the global health threat

It may seem like the elephant in the room to not talk about, but the pandemic status likely needs to no longer be a major health crisis.

It is debatable to what extent the situation needs to improve, but the cruise industry is looking for the risks associated with operating to be substantially less.

Part of this will be achieved via the Health Sail Panel's recommendations, but a reduction in cases around the world would help ease concerns across the board.

More helpful resources

When do you think cruises will resume? Share your best guess in the comments!

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