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European Union publishes recommendations for cruise ships once cruises resume

In:
03Jul2020

The European Union released 49 pages of general guidance for cruise ships that could be applied once cruise lines resume cruises following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The guidance covers a variety of measures that seek to reduce the risk for introduction of COVID-19 onto the ship, transmission during cruise ship voyage, embarkation and disembarkation, and further provides options for preparedness to respond to potential COVID-19 cases among crew and guests.

It is important to note these recommendations by the European Union have not been approved or accepted by Royal Caribbean. These measures are a look at what policies are being proposed by health organizations.

Interestingly, 22 different Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. employees provided input in the formation of this policy, including a number of Senior Vice Presidents.

While there is a lot in this document, here are the major highlights.

Short sailings to start

This end-to-end plan also notes that it recommends cruise lines take a "gradual approach" to resuming cruise ship sailings.

Specifically, it recommends sailings between 3 to 7 nights in duration, and perhaps limit the number of port visits in the itinerary.

In addition, each country that is visited on a cruise should be evaluated for their capacity to accept possible or confirmed COVID-19 cases from cruise ships.

Forced social distancing

In order to make social distancing rules effective, the EU recommends reducing the number of guests and crew onboard.

Limiting the amount of people onboard allows measures related to physical distancing on board ships can be maintained, and that temporary isolation and quarantine of passengers and crew can take place individually in cabins. 

Physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres (5 feet) should be maintained at waiting areas and during boarding at transport stations, by adopting special markings and controlled entry measures.

A number of hygiene measures are recommended to be employed onboard: hand washing with soap and water or hand hygiene with alcohol based hand rub solution (containing at least 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol), respiratory (coughing and sneezing) etiquette, disposal of used tissues, physical distancing (including the elimination of handshaking), use of face masks, avoiding touching the nose, eyes and mouth without previously washing hands (38) etc.;

Masks

The word "mask" appears 100 times in the document, and it encompasses using masks while onboard.

When physical distancing cannot be maintained, the use of face masks should be required.

Crew members are recommended to practice physical distancing and wear face masks.

If a passenger does not arrive with their own face mask, face masks could be made available for passengers at the terminal.

The document also recommends wearing masks in the following areas:

  • Interacting with other guests when closer than 5 feet apart
  • Embarkation
  • On buses
  • Walking/passing in narrow corridors on board
  • Casinos
  • Elevators
  • Excursions (countries that have rules about requiring them)
  • Visiting the medical facility on board

No indoor swimming pools

Indoor swimming pools are not recommended, but indoor pools that can be converted as outdoor pools (by lifting/removing roofs or walls) could be allowed.

Bathers should be strongly advised to shower before entering the pools. The cruise ship should provide all necessary items for showering (e.g. soap, shower gel, etc.).

Sunbeds, chairs and lounge chairs should be positioned so that they are at least 5 feet apart from each other.

In addition, the maximum number of guests in a pool should be limited, including in hot tubs.

Outbreak plan

Each cruise ship operating in Europe must have a ship contingency plan/outbreak management plan.

The EU document outlines 11 parts to this plan, including:

  • Monitoring of epidemiological situation, rules and restrictions worldwide
  • Written contingency plan/outbreak management plan for COVID-19 
  • Arrangements for medical treatment and ambulance services
  • Arrangements for repatriation
  • Arrangements for quarantine of close contacts
  • Arrangements for isolation of asymptomatic/ pre-symptomatic travelers 
  • Adequate testing capacity
  • Crew training
  • Immediate reporting to the next port of call of any possible case
  • Estimation of maximum number of passengers and crew on board cruise ships
  • Focused inspection on COVID-19 prevention and control for resuming cruise ship voyages by EU HEALTHY GATEWAYS

Prohibiting higher risk guests

Not surprisingly, there are recommendations to prevent anyone who may be at a higher risk of having contracted COVID-19 from going on a cruise ship in the first place.

These measures mirror some of the policies that went into effect before Royal Caribbean shut down operations in March.

Any person experiencing symptoms compatible with COVID-19, or if identified, anyone who has been in contact during the last 14 days with a confirmed case of COVID-19, or anyone who is tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 by RT-PCR would not be accepted on board cruise ships.

Passengers in high risk groups including people over 65 years of age or people of any age with underlying medical conditions (chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory diseases and immunocompromised individuals) should be advised to visit a doctor for pre-travel medical consultation to assess if they are fit to travel.

Activities and services on board cruise ships could be organized according to age group, so that older individuals are separated from other age groups. 

No self-service buffet

In addition to a number of protocols recommended for keeping the ship clean, the recommendation is for only designated crew members be allowed to serve food.

Crew serving food should wear face masks & disposable gloves.

Under no circumstances should crew or passengers who will be served food use any commonly shared utensils or other items. These should be removed from the service so that only a designated crew can distribute them.

Self-service of dispensed items, plates, cutlery, utensils by passengers or crew should not be allowed. Food handlers should serve any dispensed items (for example water, coffee, juice etc.). 

Room service is recommended in order to avoid overcrowding in restaurants and other food service areas.

Will Royal Caribbean limit the amount of people on a cruise ship?

In:
Category: 
30Jun2020

While Royal Caribbean has not officially announced its new policies procedures aimed to limit and prevent the spread of COVID-19 on its ships, one possibility is having a lower occupancy on ships to promote social distancing.

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Service Vicki Freed told Travel Weekly that a lowered capacity is one strategy that is in play.

Freed spoke on the nature of cruise pricing, and alluded to the fact cruise lines will have less than full ships, and in order not to compromise on quality, will not be reducing prices.

"We know that initially we're not sailing at 100% occupancy and we'll have to have lower load factors.  I think all the cruise lines are planning that. And we're going to need to have more staff onboard and still offer the quality people expect from Royal Caribbean. If suddenly we downgrade the product onboard people will say, 'they're not the same brand I thought they were ' So you do keep your price integrity up in order to fund what we need to fund."

Limiting the amount of passengers on a ship below the regular capacity could be one of Royal Caribbean's health and safety protocols that is forthcoming.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has mentioned many times the cruise line is working behind-the-scenes on their plan, which has not been announced yet.

"Looking forward to restarting, health and safety are absolutely paramount as I've said before, what was fine just a few weeks ago is no longer adequate. Good enough just good enough. We need to raise the bar to new heights, and we have teams of doctors, of scientists, of epidemiologists, and teams of people who know our business, all looking hard and charting the safest and surest path forward that we can."

In terms of profitability, Royal Caribbean told Wall Street investors that its newer ships break even on costs with less passengers, than its older ships.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty answered by saying the company could break even with use of fewer, but newer cruise ships, in lieu of older ships.

"For our newer ships, you need about 30 percent load factors to kind of break even. And then they skew to about 50 percent load factor on onto our older ships."

How would they limit capacity?

If Royal Caribbean does have lower load factors, how would they determine which rooms would not be sold, and would there be any cancellations if someone was already booked?

These are among the many questions left unanswered at this time, and Ms. Freed did not comment on the logistics involved with reducing ship capacity.

UBS Analyst Robin Farley said in a recent note the cheapest staterooms are likely candidates to be excluded.

"We note that since cruise lines are taking so much capacity out of service and not pricing to fill what is in service, they could potentially eliminate some of the lowest-margin demand that they might normally turn to when filling a ship."

There is no clear indication what Royal Caribbean may or may not do, nor is there any signs if they would cancel certain reservations that are already booked.

There is plenty of speculation, including perhaps leaving specific cabins unbooked between reserved staterooms, as well as only allowing cabins with access to fresh air to be booked.

Other cruise lines approaches

Another way to figure out what Royal Caribbean might do to limit capacity is see what other cruise lines have done.

Genting Cruise Lines, which operates China-based Star Cruises and Dream Cruise Line, was among the first cruise lines to announce new health protocols, including limiting capacity.

Their approach was to limit the capacity in most venues to half of what it was previously.  

Prior to shutting down its global fleet, Carnival Cruise Line announced in early April it would close inventory on select sailing dates. Essentially, not selling any more cabins on select sailings once they reach a certain point.

What you should do now that Royal Caribbean cancelled your cruise

In:
Category: 
23Jun2020

Royal Caribbean cancelled most cruises through September 15, which means a lot more people have had their summer cruise vacation plans altered.

Here is what you should be aware of, actively doing and planning if you are someone that had their cruise disrupted.

You don't have to decide immediately

The big news that more cruises are cancelled usually sends people running to their phone or computer to make a decision as soon as possible, but the reality is you have plenty of time to decide.

Royal Caribbean gives guests three options for what to do about the cancelled cruise, but you also have a little bit of time to decide.

There is no doubt that the first 48 hours after the cruise line announces cancellations are when the most people are calling in to change plans.

If you know with certainty what you want to do, that is great, but if you are uncertain you have some time to decide.  This is not like when a flight is cancelled and you are frantically trying to beat everyone else on the phone to find a new flight later that day.

Automatically, Royal Caribbean will provide guests with a 125% Future Cruise Credit for use on a new booking on or before December 31, 2021 and sailing through April 2022. With the last round of cancellations, the FCC will be automatically issued on or before July 31, 2020 if no other option is selected.

Even if you pick the FCC or just plain forget about it, you have until on or before December 31, 2020 to change to a refund.

The only decision to make in the short-term is if you want to opt for Lift & Shift, which allows you to 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.

The Lift & Shift offer expires on July 10, 2020.

You don't have to call

Once you decide which compensation offer you want, there are some easy ways to avoid waiting on hold.

If you booked your cruise through a travel agent, let your agent know which option you want and they can process the request on their end of things. Royal Caribbean has provided travel agents with new self-service tools to expedite refund and change requests.

If you booked directly, there is an easy to use self-service form that you can use to avoid waiting on hold.

The self-service form provides the three choices to consider, and you can get the process going without dialing anyone.

If you have questions or concerns, calling Royal Caribbean is always an option, but time saved on hold is always welcome!

One more tip: If you booked directly, do yourself a favor and use a good travel agent for the new sailing you will book to save yourself the trouble of ever having to wait on hold for Royal Caribbean ever again!

Don't forget about cruise add-ons

When a cruise is cancelled, the fist thing we all think about is our cruise fare, but do not overlook the money you spent on drink packages, shore excursions, WiFi and more.

If you do forget, or simply do nothing, you will get a 100% refund back to the original form of payment.

You could choose to convert all Cruise Planner purchases to an Onboard Credit valued at 125% of the total amount paid.  With this option, you have until July 10, 2020 to decide.

If you booked third-party shore excursions, hotels, flights or anything else not through Royal Caribbean, now is a good time to get the ball rolling on those refund requests. The airlines are also dealing with delays in getting refunds processed in a timely manner.

Royal Caribbean cancels most cruises until September 15

In:
Category: 
23Jun2020

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. announced it will extend its cruise suspension by cancelling most cruises through September 15, 2020, due to the coronavirus.

On Tuesday, the Royal Caribbean Group has decided to extend the suspension of most sailings through September 15, 2020, excluding sailings from China, suspended through the end of July, and sailings to Bermuda, suspended through October 31, 2020.

Exceptions to this timeline include China sailings paused through July onboard Spectrum of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas, as well as the further suspension of the 2020 Bermuda season onboard Grandeur of the Seas and Adventure of the Seas through October 31, 2020.  Voyager of the Seas sailings through September 30th, 2020 have also been cancelled.

Royal Caribbean's new goal is to resume operations on September 16th, 2020 for the majority of our fleet. 

The news comes days after Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) trade group announced its member cruise lines will cancel all cruises from U.S. ports until September 15, 2020. Royal Caribbean neglected to confirm the cancellations at the time of CLIA's announcement last week.

This new set of cancelled cruises marks the fifth phase of cancelled sailings by Royal Caribbean due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Royal Caribbean has not offered any sailings since mid-March.

Both Norwegian Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line have each announced their own set of cancelled cruises through September 30, 2020.

Compensation offers

For those currently confirmed on sailings departing August 1 - September 15, 2020, as well as impacted Bermuda and China itineraries, who have not previously canceled under the Cruise with Confidence offer, there are several great options to consider:

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 July 10, 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.

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.

Working with the CDC for approval

The most frequently asked question among cruisers is when will cruises resume, and the answer is unclear thus far.

A combination of changing health recommendations, as well as garnering government approval has made the road to return for any cruise line difficult, at best. 

The cancellations are a result of the current health crisis, and Royal Caribbean reconfirmed its dedication to keeping guests and crew members safe.

Aligned with CLIA, as well as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we are committed to industry safety and will not sail until we are confident in the protective measures put in place to welcome your clients back aboard.

CLIA hopes this additional time without sailings will provide opportunity to "consult with the CDC on measures that will be appropriate for the eventual resumption of cruise operations."

For its part, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) supports CLIA's announcement last week, citing outbreaks of COVID-19 on cruise ships even after passengers stopped sailing as good reason for further delays.

Royal Caribbean removes all summer sailings except for Asia from its website

In:
Category: 
20Jun2020

While Royal Caribbean has not formally announced it will cancel cruises through September 15, it has begun taking steps to prepare for what seems like an inevitable announcement by removing the sailings from its website. 

On Friday, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) trade group announced its member cruise lines would extend its voluntary cruise suspension and cancel all cruises from U.S. ports until September 15, 2020.

The news came as a surprise to many, especially since it came from CLIA before the cruise lines announced it. As expected, many cruisers immediately began contacting Royal Caribbean for confirmation.  While there has not been an announcement, it looks like the cruise line is beginning to take steps to that end.

Visitors to Royal Caribbean's website will find all of the cruise line's sailings have been removed for booking between August 1 - September 15, 2020, except for cruises sailing from Asia.

The only sailings available to book in July or August 2020 are from Beijing (Tiankin) and Shanghai (Baoshan), China.

Royal Caribbean took a similar measure in May 2020, when it pulled Alaska and Canada cruises from its website following an announcement from Canada that its borders would remain closed to cruise ships.

No announcement yet

While the update to booking cruises in July and August seems to be the proverbial nail in the coffin for those cruises, Royal Caribbean has not informed guests booked on affected sailings their vacations are cancelled, nor have they corroborated CLIA's announcement.

Royal Caribbean did post on their Health and Travel alerts section this note that a formal announcement is forthcoming.

CLIA has announced the voluntarily suspension of U.S. cruise operations until September 15. We will share more details about this announcement with our guests early next week.

Officially, Royal Caribbean's date of return remains August 1, 2020, but CLIA's announcement and Royal Caribbean's promise of an update next week seems to indicate it is a mere formality before more cruises are officially cancelled.

What should you do if you have a cruise booked?

If you have a cruise booked in August or early September, you should hold on and wait for the formal announcement from Royal Caribbean.

Contacting your travel agent or calling Royal Caribbean this weekend to cancel will not garner you the full options available once Royal Caribbean makes the announcement. Namely, you will miss out on bonus Future Cruise Credit, or the opportunity to get a full refund.

When Royal Caribbean cancels a cruise, they will notify guests and their travel agents directly. Of course, I will be sure to share that news on this blog as well.

You can expect at the very least an email to the reservation holder, as well as the travel agent to inform them of the cruise cancelation, as well as refund options. 

In short, until Royal Caribbean cancels your cruise, you have less lucrative options to consider, and should wait for the cruise line to notify you that the sailing is cancelled.

More information

CLIA announces cruise lines will extend U.S. cruise suspension through September 15

In:
Category: 
19Jun2020

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) trade group announced on Friday that its member cruise lines will extend its voluntary cruise suspension and cancel all cruises from U.S. ports until September 15, 2020.

A statement was issued by CLIA President & CEO Kelly Craighead that the CLIA Global Board of Directors voted to extend the suspension.

Earlier today, the Global Board of Directors voted to voluntarily extend the suspension of U.S. cruise passenger operations until 15 September 2020 for all ships that are subject to the CDC's current No Sail Order (vessels with the capacity to carry 250 or more). We will continually evaluate the evolving situation and make a determination as to whether a further extension is necessary. 

CLIA represents cruise lines, including  Royal Caribbean, Carnival Corp. and Norwegian Cruise Line.

At the posting of this announcement, Royal Caribbean has not issued any statement to corroborate CLIA's announcement. 

Prior to this announcement, Royal Caribbean had August 1, 2020 as its intended date of resuming service (except for China, which could begin in July).

Earlier this week, Norwegian Cruise Line made the announcement it would cancel sailings, but Royal Caribbean said it had not made any decision yet.

CLIA issued a similiar statement on March 14 when the global cruise suspension went into effect for the first time.

"Due to the ongoing situation within the U.S. related to COVID-19, CLIA member cruise lines have decided to voluntarily extend the period of suspended passenger operations.  The current No Sail Order issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will expire on 24 July, and although we had hoped that cruise activity could resume as soon as possible after that date, it is increasingly clear that more time will be needed to resolve barriers to resumption in the United States."

CLIA hopes this additional time without sailings will provide opportunity to "consult with the CDC on measures that will be appropriate for the eventual resumption of cruise operations."

This voluntary suspension applies to all CLIA members to which the No Sail Order applied (vessels with capacity to carry 250 persons or more). CLIA member cruise lines will continually evaluate the evolving situation and make a determination as to whether a further extension is necessary.

Cruise lines being singled out?

Today's announcement by CLIA specifically mentions the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as playing a key role in the decision and ability of cruise lines to resume cruises again. While cruise ships are waiting for permisison to resume operations, other aspects of travel has reopened.

At least one Wall Street analyst publicly commented that an bias may exist within the U.S. Government that has prevented cruise lines from restarting. 

Despite cruise ships facing government restrictions, casinos, theme parks, movie theaters and many other "high risk" businesses have not only resumed operations, but faced little to no Federal government oversight.

On Tuesday, the CDC updated its website and stated they do not have enough information to say when it will be safe to resume sailing with passengers.

Wall Street: CDC to blame for cruises not resuming sooner

In:
Category: 
18Jun2020

Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines have suspended all of their cruise ship sailings since March, and at least one Wall Street analyst thinks the delay in ships returning to service is the fault of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Instinet analyst Harry Curtis wrote in a note to clients that he thinks the problem with cruise ships not starting up again faster is not the fault of the company, but a bias on the part of the government.

"This issue is NOT that the industry has been passive in developing health protocols. Quite the contrary. In our view, the hurdle lies with the CDC’s unwillingness to discuss, debate and mutually implement the highest standards of passenger and crew health care." 

Curtis indicated the Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. has for many weeks, submitted suggestions for new protocols, but the CDC has shown “limited interest” in holding discussions about resuming cruises. Yet the company has little recourse but to wait for approval, as Curtis said the CDC has the power to impound or quarantine ships.  

"It would seem that the cruise industry, its passengers and employees have been viewed by the CDC in the same vein as meat packing plants, nursing homes and prisons. In our view, there is something unjust about such unilateral treatment."

While the cruise ships sit idly by, Las Vegas casinos, major theme parks, movie theaters, and water parks around the country are able to resume operations.

The airlines have been operating without impunity throughout the crisis.

According to Curtis, he estimates it could take three to six months for the CDC to respond to the cruise lines proposals.

On Tuesday, the CDC updated its website and stated they do not have enough information to say when it will be safe to resume sailing with passengers.

Royal Caribbean has not decided on any more cancellations following Norwegian Cruise Line announcement

In:
Category: 
17Jun2020

Norwegian Cruise Line announced on Tuesday it will extend its cruise cancellations through the end of September (minus Seattle-based ships), but Royal Caribbean has not made any decisions yet to follow suit.

Nearly as soon as Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings made the announcement it would cancel all of its sailings through August 30th, 2020 and select cruises in September and October, many were wondering if Royal Caribbean would do the same.

During a webinar with travel agents, Royal Caribbean Account Executive Brittany Yochum commented on the news, saying that Royal Caribbean had no announcement to make at this time.

"I know that we have other lines that have obviously extended their cancellations and there are changes daily, and each line does look at the situation individually and makes their own decision. So we are constantly looking at this situation."

"As soon as we have an update on any sort of communications, we will be sure that you are the first to know, as you have been with a prior cancellation. So we are continually looking and just stay tuned for additional updates."

Royal Caribbean's current global cruise suspension expires at the end of July, with an August 1, 2020 date to resume operation for the majority of the fleet.

Since the cruise lines have shut down operations in March, the "big three" cruise lines of NCLH, Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. have had a tendency to match each other with cruise cancellation announcements. While this pattern is far from an absolute guarantee, it has been the dominant pattern.

Thus far, Royal Caribbean has engaged in four separate phases of cruise cancellations, beginning in March.

Royal Caribbean's return to service depends largely on its work with the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and in conjunction with the CDC.

One of RCCL's controlled cruise lines, SilverSea, has already pushed back its operations into September, October or November. Silver Explorer, Silver Cloud and Silver Wind will start sailing again at the earliest in the the second half of October or November. Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper, Silver Muse and Silver Spirit have had their sail dates pushed back to September. Silver Origin and Silver Moon are now scheduled to debut on Aug. 22 and Oct. 2, respectively.

When will Royal Caribbean cruises resume?

The question every single cruise fan is asking is when will cruises resume again, and there are plenty of opinions out there.

I recently posed this question in a poll on Facebook, with the most popular vote being Q1 2021 with 36% of respondents feeling cruises will not resume this year (with another 5% thinking it will take until the second quarter of 2021).

Of course, Royal Caribbean has repeatedly said all of its ships will not resume operations at once. While the cruise line's plans are not completely certain, 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.

In these months without cruises, Royal Caribbean has been hard at work on putting together a plan that addresses a higher standard of health, safety, sanitation and medical care.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has said they want to have a good plan in place before starting back up.

"Well, I think we have said that we're not sure when we're coming back. 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."

"We said when we we won't be back before the end of July, but we we haven't gone to the next step of saying we're absolutely confident that we're starting on August one."

"We will work with the authorities. We will work with all the experts that we have asked to help us on this, to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect our guests and crew."

CDC says it doesn't know when it will be safe to resume cruises

In:
Category: 
16Jun2020

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated its website with a note that indicates the agency has no current regulations that apply to crew member repatriation will necessarily apply to passengers on ships, nor is it certain when sailings can safely resume.

The CDC website lists criteria for cruise ships that are repatriating crew members, and includes a number of requirements to safely get them home via commercial travel.  The CDC specifically mentions these rules do not apply to passengers onboard.

"Meeting these criteria does not mean cruise ships can resume passenger operations. We don’t have enough information at this time to say when it will be safe to resume sailing with passengers. Cruise lines may need to establish additional safety measures before sailing with passengers is permitted to resume. CDC will continue to evaluate and update its recommendations as the situation evolves."

In the meantime, the CDC indicated that all cruise ships must abide by the current No Sail Order and Interim Guidance During the Period of the No Sail Order.

Waiting on the new rules

Royal Caribbean has not released or announced what new regulations and safety policies will be in place once cruising resumes.  While the cruise line says it intends to resume operations on August 1, this has been a moving target that is expected by many to be subject to change.

Norwegian Cruise Line issued its own list of new safety protocols for guests once cruising resumes, but Royal Caribbean is still working on their procedures.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has stated they plan to announce soon health safety protocols written by a "blue ribbon panel of experts".

"Looking forward to restarting, health and safety are absolutely paramount as I've said before, what was fine just a few weeks ago is no longer adequate. Good enough just good enough. We need to raise the bar to new heights, and we have teams of doctors, of scientists, of epidemiologists, and teams of people who know our business, all looking hard and charting the safest and surest path forward that we can."

CDC rules for ships right now

While cruise ships are not sailing with passengers, the CDC has come up with a color-coded system for signifying each cruise ship's infection status.

  • Green: no confirmed cases of COVID-19 or COVID-like illness for 28 days.
  • Yellow: one or more COVID-like illness cases pending confirmation.
  • Red: one or more cases of confirmed COVID-19 or COVID-like illness within the past 28 days

When a cruise ship requests to repatriate crew with the use of commercial travel, the ship will need to ensure not only does it meet the green status, but cruise company officials must sign an acknowledgment of the completeness and accuracy of their response plan.

Currently nine Royal Caribbean International ships have the status of "Provisionally Green" while the cruise line's No Sail Order Response Plan status is under review/revision. Five additional Royal Caribbean International ships have the status "Provisionally Red".

Ship NameShip StatusCommercial Travel Allowed
Adventure of the SeasProvisionally Red^No
Anthem of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Brilliance of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Enchantment of the SeasProvisionally Red^No
Grandeur of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Harmony of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Independence of the SeasProvisionally Red^No
Liberty of the SeasProvisionally Red^No
Mariner of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Navigator of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Oasis of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Rhapsody of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Symphony of the SeasProvisionally Green*No
Vision of the SeasProvisionally Red^No

Information accurate as of June 15, 2020. Source: CDC

Provisionally Green means the ship meets the surveillance criteria for “Green” status, but the following have not been completed:

  • Review and revision of the cruise line’s No Sail Order response plan, or
  • Cruise line’s signed acknowledgement of a complete and accurate plan, or
  • Ship’s submission of a signed attestation to CDC for crew to travel commercially.

Provisionally Red means the ship meets the surveillance criteria for “Red” status, but the following have not been completed:

  • Review and revision of the cruise line’s No Sail Order response plan, or
  • Cruise line’s signed acknowledgement of a complete and accurate plan

Tourism opening up elsewhere

While the cruise lines are forced to adhere to CDC regulation and overview, other areas of tourism in the United States, and around the world, is in the process of reopening.

Notably, major theme parks in the United States and China are open, or in the process of opening up.

Universal Orlando re-opened select resort hotels and parks to guests last week. SeaWorld Orlando & Busch Gardens Tampa re-opened on June 11. Walt Disney World and Disneyland will re-open in July, along with its theme parks in China resuming operations. 

Airlines have had absolutely no direct oversight into their operations, and bars, restaurants, fitness centers and movie theaters having permission to reopen in some US states.

Las Vegas also recently reopened, having their hotels and casino resuming operations.

More information

Five lessons I've learned from all these cancelled cruises

In:
Category: 
12Jun2020

Since Royal Caribbean started cancelling cruises in March, there has been a lot of changes across the cruise industry. Things we never thought we would see, have happened repeatedly.

With so much changing during this global cruise suspension, we have all had to adapt to new policies and procedures.  If fact, I have found some new strategies that have worked well, along with reminders of the importance of some other tried-and-true advice.

Here are the my top five lessons that the current cruise shutdown have taught me since this all began.

Always book refundable cruise fare

While Cruise with Confidence has added an incredible amount of flexibility for cancelling cruises, it seems there are a lot of people who simply want their money back, and quite often non-refundable deposits stand in the way of this, especially for cruises before final payment date.

In short, if you are going to book a cruise, be sure to book refundable fare.

The announcement this week that Allure of the Seas will not sail from Galveston is a great example of why having refundable cruise fare is such an advantage.  People found themselves stuck between being forced on Liberty of the Seas instead, or taking a future cruise credit.  For some people, this was a big problem because they wanted to cancel to change to a different sailing all together, or get their money back.  While Royal Caribbean reversed course and offered more flexible options, you cannot always count on a scenario like that.

While I usually booked refundable cruise fare even before the shutdown, I think now it is even more important to err on the side of caution and book refundable deposits whenever possible.

It is should be noted that there are situations where non-refundable cruise fare is unavoidable, such as with suites. In that case, there is not a choice, but if you have the option, I strongly recommend refundable deposits.

Travel insurance does not help much if the cruise never happens

An investment in travel insurance is never a bad idea, but it is important to always read the policy and know when the coverage applies. 

While it may seem like trip interruption coverage would apply for scenarios when cruises are cancelled, nearly every insurance company does not cover pandemics, so the policy did not apply.

I think many of us were hoping early on that travel insurance might cover non-refundable purchases associated with the trip, but that was not the case. Luckily, most travel providers ended up giving more flexible cancellation terms (such as the airlines), but the notion that travel insurance is a blanket policy to cover anything that gets in the way of your cruise is not exactly true.

A good travel agent is invaluable

I have been a proponent of using a good travel agent for years, and the rounds of cruise cancellations exacerbated the need for a good agent like never before.

All too often, I would see posts on social media from people upset about a variety of issues related to cancelled cruises. Refunds, future cruise credits, errors in reimbursement and trying to change dates were just some of the common areas where those without an agent were stuck on hold for hours to get a response.

Those of us that worked with travel agents generally had an easier time, because the agents were tirelessly working on our behalf.  Travel agents have been among the most hard hit during the cruise shutdown, as they only get paid commission by the cruise line after a client goes on their trip. Nonetheless, so many agents have worked very hard to stay and assist their clients.

While the old argument against using a travel agent of, "I prefer to manage it myself" may have been fine in the past, those managing it themselves were also dealing with relentless hold times and changing policies.

Cancel cruise planner purchases early

One strategy that seems to work well for getting money back quicker, is to cancel pre-cruise purchases before the sailing gets officially cancelled in Royal Caribbean's system.

Usually there are a few hours or more between when Royal Caribbean announces cruises being cancelled and when their system starts to process these cancellations.  

It seems if you can get into the Cruise Planner site and start canceling your drink packages, excursions, spa appointments and more before they automatically get cancelled, refunds were processing sooner.  

This is more anecdotal than scientific, but something to keep in mind going forward.

Sales are real now

Another silver lining to our current state of affairs is we have seen significant discounts in Royal Caribbean's latest sales.

The last few rounds of pre-cruise purchase sales and cruise fare sales seem to have netted cruises the most lucrative savings I can recall seeing in quite sometime.

It is no secret that Royal Caribbean (and all cruise lines) are hurting for cash, so any revenue coming in is quite welcome.  Moreover, there are quite a few people that have cancelled cruises this year and next year.  So with all of that in mind, it looks like the cruise line has been more aggressive in their discounts.

Keep an eye out for discounts going forward, especially for 2020 sailings. There seems to be changing prices constantly, and impressive savings too.

One more thing: refunds

It is hard not to talk about the elephant in the room, and that is how long it has taken for refunds and future cruise credits to be processed.  

Royal Caribbean has admitted to these delays, and it is perhaps the top complaint from readers since the first round of cancellations occurred. While Royal Caribbean has given timelines of 30 or 45 days (business or calendar), the reality has been quite different for a lot of people.

As I stated earlier, the value of a travel agent has made this process so much easier on me and so many others.  In reading people's experiences, it seems there is a clear divide between people with a good travel agent, and those that did not book with one.  Worse yet were those that booked through third-party big box stores or other big resellers that left their customers out in the rain, so to speak.

But even with a good agent, refunds are not processed any quicker. However, they are getting processed.  Yes, sometimes incorrectly, but the money is flowing out there.

The lesson learned about cruise refunds is it will take arguably longer than it should to be received, but it is happening. Royal Caribbean has brought back more call center representatives and rolled out a suite of self-service forms for travel agents and consumers alike to use.

Patience has gone from a virtue to a repeating mantra, but the money does show up.

Your thoughts

What has been something you have learned through all of this? Is there something you would have done differently? Share your experiences in our comments!

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