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5 things Royal Caribbean has done to boost bookings since cruises shutdown

In:
Category: 
11Jan2021

Since the onset of its voluntary shutdown, Royal Caribbean has been aggressive with new policies and offers meant to  get people cruising again.

There was little doubt when cruise ships shutdown in 2020, cruise lines would need to do a lot to get people booking cruises again. While revenue is basically nothing (Royal Caribbean actually had negative revenue last quarter), there have been some creative strategies announced that seek to improve consumer confidence and drum up sales.

Despite everything happening in the world, there are still lots of people who want to plan for a day where they can get back on a cruise ship. This demand has driven Royal Caribbean to find new ways to boost sales, and in the nearly year-long shutdown, there have been a few significant steps taken to keep people booking cruises.

While the new to cruise market may be all but dried up for the time being, loyal cruisers are still eagerly waiting to get back on a ship and many of the new policies and offers are clearly aimed at this audience.

Here is a look at the top five notable things Royal Caribbean has done to help get more bookings during the cruise industry shutdown

Flexible cancellation terms

Even before cruises shutdown, Royal Caribbean revamped its cancellation terms to make things simpler and more flexible.

Dubbed the Cruise with Confidence program, Royal Caribbean sought to give consumers the knowledge they could have more time to decide if they really want to go on a cruise.

The Cruise with Confidence program added the option to cancel a cruise up until 48 hours before the sailing in exchange for a future cruise credit.  Before the program was introduced, there were hefty penalties for canceling a cruise in the weeks leading up to a cruise.  If you tried to cancel a cruise a few days before the sailing, you would have gotten nothing back on your cruise fare.

This new policy mirrored what the airline industry did as well, by relaxing cancellation terms to avoid people pre-emptively canceling trips due to all the fear and doubt in the world today.

Royal Caribbean went on to also introduce Lift & Shift, as a way to easily defer a booked cruise to the same time next year while also protecting the price they originally paid.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean Lift and Shift information & frequently asked questions

By adding the freedom and flexibility to reschedule or cancel closer to the sail date, guests have a sense they have options if they change their mind later.

Cruise with Confidence has been extended, and expanded a few times, and appears to be here for the long haul until consumer confidence goes back up in terms of being able to plan cruises.

It is perhaps the most significant policy shift by the cruise line during this tumultuous time in cruising.

Read moreWhy you shouldn't cancel your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise

Double points

Perhaps no indication that everything is different now was the double Crown and Anchor Society points offer for 2021 cruises.

Essentially, Royal Caribbean will offer guests who book a cruise for 2021 (and early 2022) double the amount of points per night in the cruise line's customer loyalty program.

This may not sound like a big deal, until you realize such an offer has never been extended for such a long time, or with such wide availability.

By offering more loyalty points, guests can move up the ladder of the Crown and Anchor Society and reach higher tiers faster, which means more perks and benefits sooner.

Clearly the added loyalty points offer is aimed at repeat cruisers who look at the Crown and Anchor Society as a challenge to maneuver higher and higher at a faster pace.

Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program has long been one of the most lucrative cruise line loyalty programs out there, and moving up has never been easier with the double points offer.

Read moreTop 8 Royal Caribbean Double Points questions

Deeper discounts

Royal Caribbean rolled up its sleeves with some of its booking promotions in 2020, offering deeper and more wide ranging discounts than ever before.

Many RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers have reported deeper discounts on sales, which says something when there is a sale running nearly year round.

In the early part of the cruise line shutdown, many companies scaled back their marketing efforts because it was difficult to gauge how to appropriately advertise to consumers with everything going on.  In time, Royal Caribbean joined other companies in bringing back promotional offers, and many saw better deals than compared to before the industry shutdown.

A great example is the Kids Sail Free deal, which has always been a popular choice for families. In 2020, Royal Caribbean took the unprecedented step to offer Kids Sail Free during the summer.

Typically this offer is full of blackout dates, including the summer because kids are out of school. 

Instead, Royal Caribbean allowed the Kids Sail Free deal to extend into summer to the delight of many families.

Read more: Kids Sail Free 2021-2022 Dates & Tips

Extended future cruise credits

While Future Cruise Credits (FCCs) existed before the cruise industry shutdown, their role and ability to be used has been enhanced since the cancellations began.

Future cruise credits have become widely available due to the current voluntary cruise shutdown that Royal Caribbean is engaged in, which means while cruises are being cancelled due to the global health crisis, Royal Caribbean is offering guests future cruise credits.

Future cruise credits are vouchers that guests typically get when a cruise is cancelled in lieu of a refund. You can think of them as a kind of gift certificate.

Any FCC has redemption rules which stipulate how and when they can be used. In the nearly year-long shutdown, Royal Caribbean has tweaked and modified the program to make it easier for guests to use (and keep) their credits.

An early change was to allow someone to use their FCC towards a cruise deposit, instead of just the cruise fare. Before this was changed, you would have to put a cash deposit down first on a new reservation, and then apply a FCC to the reservation.  

Royal Caribbean has also extended future cruise credits that were set to expire before the end of 2021 to ensure everyone had more time to use their vouchers.

Then the cruise line offered the ability to combine FCCs when a cruise was cancelled.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean Future Cruise Credit: What you need to know

Extended offers when more cruises cancelled

Time and time again, Royal Caribbean has extended its policies when it became clear more time was needed for cruises to restart and bookings to be made.

No one has had a crystal ball during this process, so Royal Caribbean has consistently extended programs like Lift & Shift, Double Points, Cruise with Confidence and more in order to ensure these offerings can be better utilized when cruises do resume.

The flexibility in the terms and conditions of offers, booking promotions, and policies has demonstrated these enhancements will remain until at least cruise ships can return to service so that the spirit of these offers can be used.

Read moreHere are your options if you want to cancel or defer your booked cruise

The unconfirmed cruise ship rumors that get repeated a lot by cruise fans

In:
Category: 
05Jan2021

In the void of cruise ships being able to sail, there has been plenty of speculation by cruise fans on what might happen in the near future.

While sharing opinions of what is happening in the cruise industry is not new, unfortunately a lot of these rumors get repeated enough that it seems to be referred to as fact in some discussion boards.

Having seen so many of these discussions on social media, there seems to be a few of these "predictions" that are passed around as the truth. The illusory truth effect is the tendency to believe false information to be correct after repeated exposure, and there is belief in many circles that this is the case.

Cruises will be shutdown for at least a year in March, so rosy optimism is not expected.  However, it is important to remember what has been confirmed, versus what we still have not heard about.

Here is a list of some commonly shared cruise ship rumors that have not been verified or announced by Royal Caribbean.

You will need to get the vaccine to go on a cruise

Ever since a vaccines became a reality, many cruise fans think the cruise lines will require them in order to get onboard the ship.

Despite the fact no cruise line has officially announced any such policy, many believe Royal Caribbean will mandate guests prove they have a vaccine in order to get on a cruise.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said recently he thinks vaccines will play a critical part in  getting cruise ships back in service one their effect begins to take hold, "Today we envision that the key, but not the exclusive factor, will be the vaccines rather than purely the protocols."

"Although the first cruises will be later than we expected, the resumption of cruising will ramp up faster and be more robust."

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio said his company is looking into whether or not being vaccinated can be required of cruise passengers.

In the meantime, no one knows yet if you will need to prove you have the vaccine in order to get on a cruise, but plenty of people seem to think it will be.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean CEO says vaccines, not new protocols, will be what gets cruises going again

Back to back cruises won't be allowed

Ever since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released its rules as part of the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, there has been concern consecutive cruises would be banned.

The source of this rumor is in the fact the CDC says cruises may not exceed 7-nights.  This has lead some people to believe a back-to-back cruise (two cruises in a row by the same guest) would be prohibited.

Nowhere in the CDC's Conditional Sail Order, or in Royal Caribbean's protocols for cruises in Singapore, does it state guests may not go on a back to back cruise.

Some readers have told me a travel agent was informed by some cruise line that booking back to back sailings was not allowed, although I have yet to see this policy written out.

Read moreWhat does the Conditional Sailing Order mean for cruises to restart?

Pessimistic predictions on when cruise ships might sail again

In the absence of cruises, plenty of cruise fans have taken to making predictions when cruises might actually restart again.

Like many of these rumors, instead of including the words, "I think" before they share a guess, random dates are presented as fact based on how they feel that day.

Similar to how the stock market goes down when bad news comes out, predictions of when cruises might restart tend to have an optimistic or pessimistic take depending on what else is happening in the world.

Read moreNo, nobody knows if the cruise you have booked will actually sail

Guesses when the next round of cancellations will happen

If cruise fans are not guessing when cruises might restart, the other time honored tradition has becoming predicting when the next round of cancellations will be announced.

There has been no consistent pattern to when Royal Caribbean (or any cruise line) announces new cancellations, but that has not stopped many from posting on social media to expect cancellations on Fridays, after 5pm, before 9am, or when the moon aligns with Jupiter.

Just like cruise ships resuming cruises, no one really knows when to expect new cancellations. Royal Caribbean has very rarely given any hint of when to expect more cancellations. 

While there has been a trend when one of the "big three" cruise lines (Royal Caribbean, Carnival or NCL) announce cancellations the others eventually do the same, the exact timing is anything but predictable.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean Cancellations - Updates, Refunds & FAQs

What have you heard?

Is there a a juicy rumor that you have seen repeated so many times that most seem to think it will be a fact? Which of these do you think may actually turn out to be true?

Share your favorites in the comments below.

Singapore investigating group of passengers that took their masks off on Royal Caribbean cruise ship

In:
Category: 
31Dec2020

A photo of a group of guests who took their masks off for a photo has prompted an investigation into cruise ship protocols by the Singaporean government.

Photo by valleyseow

The Straits Times reports a group of guests posted a photo on social media of them not wearing masks, and it caught the attention of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB).

The guests were on the December 20 sailing of Quantum of the Seas, and posted the photos on Instagram.

In the photos, the group is not wearing a mask and standing less than 1 meter apart.

Photo by valleyseow

The photo is a violation of the STB's CruiseSafe penalty framework , which requires guests to always follow the rules. Penalties by the STB for cruise lines that incur violations include can include fines, suspension of sailings and having their CruiseSafe certification revoked.

The STB confirmed it is investigating, "We take a serious view of any breach in safe management measures on cruises departing from Singapore. The safety of passengers and crew is our priority, and regular on-board inspections are conducted during sailings to ensure compliance."

A Royal Caribbean International spokesman acknowledged the incident, and added that it is investigating the matter. "The recent breach in safe distancing measures seems to have been an instance where a group gathered for some pictures."

Singapore's reputation for taking local laws seriously is well-known around the world, and is a country where spitting or littering on a sidewalk comes with serious consequences.

Royal Caribbean has received permission from the Singapore government to conduct these sailings, which are pilot cruises that must meet all requirements and guidelines for safe cruising.

These first Quantum of the Seas cruises are round-trip cruises from Singapore with no port stops.  They are also sailing at reduced capacity of up to 50%, and open to only residents of Singapore.

Vaccine optimism driving strong cruise ship bookings in 2021 and 2022

In:
Category: 
29Dec2020

For many travelers, a Covid-19 vaccine is a symbol of a coming positive change in the world, and it has many already making plans for cruise vacations next year and beyond.

"With the news of the vaccines being distributed across the country, we are seeing a renewed sense of optimism towards travel," said Beci Mahnken, Founder and CEO of MEI-Travel. "Clients seem ready to have the conversation about options and we are seeing an increase in bookings particularly for fall 2021 and 2022."

MEI Travel is seeing a general trend across the cruise industry, with strong demand for bookings in fall 2021 and 2022.

Ms. Mahnken said the itineraries catching the most attention for new bookings are Alaska and Caribbean itineraries.

The enthusiasm for new bookings next year and beyond reflects something Royal Caribbean has been talking about since the summer of 2020, which is pent-up demand. With so many people giving up their 2020 travel plans due to the global health crisis, most have pushed these plans back to next year in order to make up for lost time.

The one bright spot for Royal Caribbean throughout the entire cruise line shutdown has been the stronger than expected demand for cruises in 2021 and 2022. 

When Royal Caribbean released new sailings to book on "cruises to nowhere" aboard Quantum of the Seas in Singapore, the cruise line saw a surge in new bookings.

Read more: Live blog posts from onboard Quantum of the Seas in Singapore

"We were really quite surprised by the level of demand that came into the product of the winter season that we've got it open," Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley shared during a call with investors in October.

"Within the first two weeks, we had literally the triple demand that we were expecting at rates above what we were expecting."

Royal Caribbean Group Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty confirmed the pent-up demand trend as far back as August, "You see this kind of line as you kind of get into the early to mid part of the second quarter, where there's just strong demand for for the season and beyond."

"It's almost as if the consumer has somewhat kind of focus on that's when it will be. It will be time for them to to deal with this pent up demand that Michael had had talked about."

The other factor driving new bookings is the very flexible cancellation policies the cruise lines have rolled out to ease consumer concerns about changing their mind later. Royal Caribbean's Cruise with Confidence program offers the ability to cancel a cruise up to 48 hours before a cruise sails with no penalty in exchange for a future cruise credit.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean Cancellations - Updates, Refunds & FAQs

Ms. Mahnken's advice is to take advantage of the relaxed cancelation and change policies to secure your vacation, "You still have the flexibility to move the date if needed. And if you have a future cruise credit to spend, keep an eye on the book by and sail dates so you don’t miss the boat."

Study finds most would cruise if there were few cases, new protocols and a vaccine

In:
Category: 
22Dec2020

While many cruise fans would love to get back on a cruise ship, a majority feel certain factors need to occur first to make them feel comfortable in getting onboard.

CruiseCritic released the results of its State of the Cruise Industry Report, which looks at what its readership has been saying about cruises since April.

The study asked over 3,000 people with varying degrees of cruise experience questions about how, when, and why they will book a cruise.

A major topic for anyone who is considering going on a cruise is what factors would make someone feel more comfortable to get back onboard.

The top three results were:

  1. Minimal or no reported active COVID-19 cases in the area (68%)
  2. Strict protocols for leaving and returning to the ship (63%)
  3. COVID-19 vaccine (60%)

It shows cruise fans and those with an interest in going on a cruise ship still are interested in going on a cruise, albeit with certain changes in place.

The cruise industry remains largely shut down, and will continue for another few months at the very least.

In fact, 66% of people that took the survey had a "favorable response" to the Healthy Sail Panel list of 74 recommendations for cruise ships to be able to sail safely.

Cruisers felt most strongly about three key areas of new rules:

  1. Sanitation and ventilation (81%)
  2. Testing, screening and exposure reduction (76%)
  3. Response, contingency planning and execution (60%)

Moreover, the more someone has cruised, the more likely they are to want to get back onboard as soon as possible, "Those who have taken 10+ cruises are 18% more likely to book a future cruise than those who have taken one cruise or fewer."

The study found one-third of those surveyed are already looking to book a cruise and 81% say they will book a future cruise. 

Speaking of booking, when someone does want to book a cruise, the top consideration is price, then destination, and then the cancellation policy.

Being able to cancel a cruise easily rose dramatically compared to last year's survey results, with the study seeing a 17% increase as an important consideration.

You can read the summary of the study's findings on CruiseCritic.

Cruise lines left out of new stimulus bill again

In:
Category: 
21Dec2020

While airlines are going to get $15 billion in additional payroll support from a new stimulus package, the cruise industry that has been shutdown for 9 months will be getting no financial aid.

A new bipartisan $900 billion coronavirus aid package is being finalized in Congress that includes federal assistance for households, small businesses and health-care providers. They have not yet released text of the legislation, which they hope to pass in the next day.

While the details are still being sorted out, the airline industry will get its second financial bump, after receiving $25 billion in payroll support under the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in March.

After the CARES Act money ran out, airlines began furloughing workers. In order to take advantage of the new aid package, airlines would have to recall more than 32,000 workers who were furloughed this fall.

In addition to airline aid, the new stimulus package includes $1 billion for airline contractors, $2 billion for airports and concessionaires, $14 billion for transit, $10 billion for state highways, $1 billion for Amtrak and $2 billion for private bus, school bus and ferry companies.

Meanwhile, the cruise industry does not appear to be included in the new stimulus package, despite the cruise industry supporting 436,600 American jobs, paying $24.4 billion in wages, and generating $55.5 billion in economic activity in 2019.

Cruise lines were left out of the CARES Act stimulus as well in March.

Over the summer, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain dismissed any plans to rely on federal assistance to work though the current cruise industry shutdown.

"We started with a strong balance sheet. We've taken a lot of steps to improve our liquidity. We've taken a lot of steps to bring our costs under control," Mr. Fain said bluntly. "It's a very painful process we've gone through."

"But we're doing that without relying on the US government. We're doing that on our own."

Lawmakers will now move to vote on the proposal, along with a full-year government spending bill.

It is worth noting that Skift reported the UK entity of Royal Caribbean Group, "received millions of pounds of state assistance as part of a program known as the Covid Corporate Financing Facility."

Covid has changed who Royal Caribbean targets in its sales

In:
Category: 
17Dec2020

The impact of covid-19 on the cruise industry has been felt from every angle, including Royal Caribbean's sales and promotions.

Like all cruise lines, Royal Caribbean typically runs many different promotions to drum up business.  Since the cruise industry shutdown, the target audience for these sales has shifted.

Royal Caribbean Director of Revenue Strategy, Brittany Briggs, answered a question from travel advisors about what is taken into account when promotions are developed, and how will that change moving forward.

Ms. Briggs said since cruises stopped, Royal Caribbean has shifted its sales to target people that have cruised before with the cruise line, in lieu of new cruisers.

"We have had to adjust due to the current times, as you guys are all aware, and we have taken into account and geared a lot of our promotions more towards our repeat cruisers."

She said that pricing and promotion have been geared to Royal Caribbean's base of support during these difficult times.

Furthermore, Ms. Briggs indicated that this trend of targeting repeat cruisers will continue as Royal Caribbean gets closer to returning to service.

Cruise fans have taken notice of significantly more offers that seem to appeal to someone who has cruised with Royal Caribbean.

Early in the shutdown, new sales began offering bonus instant savings for members of the Crown and Anchor Society, which is Royal Caribbean's customer loyalty program. 

Most notably, Royal Caribbean unveiled an unprecedented offer with double Crown and Anchor points per night of any cruise in 2021.  Many repeat cruisers are drawn to the prospect of more quickly moving up the tiers of Crown and Anchor Society and reaping the rewards sooner. Prior to this year, the cruise line rarely offered ways to earn more loyalty points.

Ms. Briggs also mentioned that the manner in which Royal Caribbean elects a particular promotion is based on how that offer has performed historically.

"It's mostly driven based on historical performances, believe it or not, and how the promotion really resonates in the market, as well as the bookings that obviously drives in.

Strong demand by repeat cruisers has even surprised Royal Caribbean's executives. One of the few bright spots on Royal Caribbean Group's balance sheets has been bookings by repeat cruisers.

Royal Caribbean Vice President of Revenue Management Michael Goldner saw early on after cruises stopped that the people who were still booking are repeat cruisers, "New bookings, new reservations, mostly, not surprisingly, but mostly from Crown and Anchor guests."

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty was equally surprised by the demand, "Our loyalty guests have really just been absolutely incredible in their support, and you can really see their love of cruising as they begin to want to focus further out."

Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley also spoke about the loyalty of cruise fans, "I think we've really seen surprising demand from our loyalty members, and remember we've got close to 20 million loyalty members. Their response to various promotions that we've put into the market, just to understand what the demand looks like is been surprisingly positive. So, as we move into Q4 and into '21, we've been honestly surprised in terms of the demand that we've seen coming in, particularly from loyalty guests."

Royal Caribbean passes on virus-zapping air purifier

In:
Category: 
12Dec2020

One company claims to have developed an indoor air cleaning system that can zap away 99.9% of airborne COVID-19 virus particles from any indoor space within 30 minutes.

AtmosAir is the manufacturer of this bi-polar ionization technology, and it has caught the attention of plenty of companies that have large indoor spaces, such as cruise lines.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings recently announced a partnership with the company to install the technology on 28 cruise ships in the family of cruise lines, including Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas. Virgin Voyages will also invest in it.

According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Royal Caribbean considered using AtmosAir's tech, but "decided there wasn’t enough available research to justify adopting it."

Patrik Dahlgren, Royal Caribbean Group Senior Vice President for Global Marine Operations told the outlet they decided to upgrade its indoor air filtration systems using traditional filters capable of trapping virus-sized contaminants.

How bi-polar ionization works

The AtmosAir Bi-Polar Ionization works differently from traditional air filtration. Instead of "catching" virus particles in the air, Bi-Polar Ionization sends charged ions out on air currents that damage the surface of the virus and inactivate it.

These ions travel into occupied spaces, bind with contaminants and pathogens, including coronaviruses, and break them down. Through naturally occurring chemistry, the contaminants are disinfected, and the air is purified to the level seen in most natural environments.

AtmosAir Solutions provided results of tests performed by the independent Microchem Laboratory, which evaluates sanitizing products, that found the technology reduced the presence of coronavirus by more than 99 percent within 30 minutes of exposure.

The technology is used at more than 7,500 locations across the United States, including Hilton and Marriott hotels, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Staples Center, Los Angeles International and more.

Royal Caribbean's air filtration plans

Royal Caribbean worked with the University of Nebraska Medical Center to develop an air circulation solution to keep guests safe.

They conducted a bioaerosol assessment on Oasis of the Seas.

This study involved releasing billions of 1µ aerosol-sized microspheres, each containing uniquely DNA barcoded inert virus surrogate, throughout the ship at certain pre-selected spaces (i.e., crew cabins, guest staterooms, and adjacent public spaces including the casino, Studio-B & Disco/Lounge) to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of the vessel’s indoor air management strategies, as well as to understand the spread of the aerosols through the HVAC system and in between the adjacent private and public spaces.

The study found that it was necessary to utilize a HVAC system on its cruise ships that changed the air in the room at least 6 times or more and used a filter with a MERV rating of 13. Doing this cleared the virus droplets from the air in about an hour.

This study confirmed that cross-contamination of air between adjacent public spaces is extremely low, and undetectable in most test cases, thanks to this powerful system.

Air filtration is just one part of what Royal Caribbean's plans are to handle airflow on its cruise ships.

The Healthy Sail Panel panel of health experts recommended 7 important steps to manage indoor air.

1. Use HVAC filters with highest level possible (MERV 8 to MERV 13)

2. Optimize airflow so that air is not recirculated.

3. SARSCoV-2 isolation rooms are consistently at negative pressure.

4. Maximize air changes per hour and filtration of air in staterooms, crew rooms, and public areas.

5. Isolation rooms in medical facilities on board should have 6-12 air changes per hour, be at a negative pressure to the adjacent area, and have 100% air exhausted to the outside.

6. Use portable HEPA filters in congregate areas.

7. Reducing indoor functions whenever possible in favor of outdoor activities.

Why cruise lines aren't relying only on COVID-19 testing

In:
Category: 
10Dec2020

The COVID-19 false positive on Quantum of the Seas earlier this week seems to have sent the media into a frenzy regarding the role testing plays, but testing is part of, not the complete, solution to curbing the spread on cruise ships.

Testing is at the front line of the new health protocols Royal Caribbean, and the entire cruise industry, have adopted in order to restart cruises, but they are not the silver bullet.

The Washington Post jumped on the recent false positive test as an opportunity to point out "why testing won't save the cruise industry from the coronavirus", and they are right.

Testing was never the be-all and end-all of the new protocols, and it is a good reminder that the cruise line plans to restart is not pinned on one hope.

Committing to 100% testing

While media pundits point out testing's shortcomings, the cruise industry has done something that no other sector of travel has done: commit to 100% testing.

A core recommendation of the Healthy Sail Panel to institute 100% testing of cruise ship guests and crew members. Neither airlines, resorts, or casinos have adopted such a task. In fact, no other industry in the world requires 100 percent testing.

The Healthy Sail Panel is an independent team of scientists and medical experts that the cruise lines hired to come up with a plan for cruises to be able to sail in a safe manner.

While no test is perfect, it remains a very important tool for cruise lines to utilize.

Testing isn't the only tool

Tests are helpful, but they are not perfect and that is why the cruise lines do much more than just rely on a smattering of tests.

As an example, a 83-year-old man on Quantum of the Seas took a test on Quantum of the Seas that came back as positive for COVID-19.

Immediately, Royal Caribbean's new plans kicked in, with isolation, contact tracing and the ship returning immediately to Singapore a day early.

After returning to port the man was transported to a local hospital where he took three different tests that all came back negative.

Testing cannot solve the problem of keeping cruise ships by itself. That is why the Healthy Sail Panel's recommendations take a variety of different steps to create a layered approach of several different operating protocols.

  • Testing. 100% testing of passengers and crew for COVID-19 prior to embarkation.
  • Mask-Wearing. Mandatory wearing of masks by all passengers and crew onboard and during excursions whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained
  • Distancing. Physical distancing in terminals, onboard ships, on private islands and during shore excursions
  • Ventilation. Air management and ventilation strategies to increase fresh air onboard and, where feasible, using enhanced filters and other technologies to mitigate risk
  • Medical Capability: Risk based response plans tailored for each ship to manage medical needs, dedicated cabin capacity allocated for isolation and other operational measures, and advance arrangements with private providers for shoreside quarantine, medical facilities, and transportation.
  • Shore Excursions: Only permit shore excursions according to the cruise operators’ prescribed protocols, with strict adherence required of all passengers and denial of re-boarding for any passengers that do not comply.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has been a major proponent of testing, but admits it is not foolproof.

"Each individual step whittles away at the risk levels until you have architected a overall much safer journey."

"I compare it to a car. The brakes keep you safe, of course, and a seatbelt and you've got even better protection. Then add an air bag and you start to see the effect of a layered approach."

While cruise lines would love to keep the virus from ever getting on a cruise ship, their plans are also about mitigating the spread onboard to avoid the kind of free-for-all so many land-based locations are encountering on a daily basis with little to no government oversight.

Cruise lines have long been held to a higher standard than airlines or casinos, and it is important to remember how every protocol works together as a whole.

More information:

Where Royal Caribbean cruising is right now - December 2020

In:
Category: 
10Dec2020

There is so much happening in the cruise world, and that includes quite a few changes recently with Royal Caribbean.

To help make it easier with what is going on right now with Royal Caribbean cruises, I have compiled a look at the most recent Royal Caribbean news, announcements and changes you should know about.

While there are no firm plans yet for Royal Caribbean's restart, there are a lot of changes to be aware of as we move into 2021.

Quantum of the Seas has restarted cruises

Despite the blemish of a false positive scare onboard, Royal Caribbean's first cruise ship has restarted sailing in Singapore.

Quantum of the Seas began her first sailings in December from Singapore, which are sailings to no where that are just 3 or 4 nights in duration and limited to residents of Singapore.

Of course, the cruise experience has changed considerably in order to adhere to a series of new health protocols and changes aimed at keeping guests and crew members safe.

Quantum of the Seas has a reduced capacity onboard, and has implemented mandatory universal testing during embarkation and debarkation, and enforced mask wearing, physical distancing and enhanced cleaning practices across the ship, among other required practices.

Another big change onboard is the introduction of a contact tracing bracelet called a "tracelet". All guests wear one and it helps identify who may have had close contact with anyone that tests positive for covid.

Volunteers for test cruises wanted

While Royal Caribbean has not announced any firm restart plans, it has been taking volunteer sign ups for its test cruises.

Part of the U.S. Center for Disease Control's (CDC) plan to allow cruise ships to restart operations is to conduct a series of simulated sailings, which require unpaid volunteers to pretend to be guests onboard.

These volunteers will help test out Royal Caribbean's new health protocols and ensure the new rules are working as intended.

So far, around 200,000 people have signed up to be a volunteer on a test cruise.

Read moreTop 14 things the CDC requires cruise ships do on test sailings

Cruises cancelled until at least March

Any chance of Royal Caribbean restarting cruises in North America will not happen until at least March 2021.

Royal Caribbean cancelled all of its cruises through February 28, 2021 with two exceptions: Quantum of the Seas in Singapore and Spectrum of the Seas in China.

In addition, the remainder of the Australia/New Zealand season has been cancelled — through April 2021.

Essentially, Royal Caribbean needs more time to meet all of the requirements to gain approval from the CDC to restart cruises.

It is not clear if more cancellations will be needed or not, nor when test cruises or any other progress with the Conditional Sail Order may occur.

Why can't cruise ships sail?

In places like the United States and Australia, cruise ships are prohibited from sailing because of strict government regulations.

The CDC has in place the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, which prohibits any cruise line from operating in the United States until it demonstrates it can operate safely and receive permission from the CDC to sail.

The Conditional Sail Order was issued at the end of October, and thus far, there has been little information what, if any, progress has been made on getting closer to cruises restarting.

Similarly, Australia has banned cruise ship travel until at least March 2021.

Read moreWhat does the Conditional Sailing Order mean for cruises to restart?

What is next for Royal Caribbean?

While Quantum of the Seas is sailing in Singapore, the company's primary focus remains getting cruises restarted in the United States.

A major factor that may simplify things for all cruise lines is the imminent arrival of a new covid vaccine, which many health experts believe will have an immediate effect on the public health emergency in the first half of 2021.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain believes the combination of promising vaccines in scope, broader and faster testing, and treatment options available will help bring about the return of cruises sooner.

Many cruise fans are looking towards when test sailings might begin.  There was hope the first test cruises could start in December, but that may slip to January.  Neither Royal Caribbean nor the CDC have given any public hints on when to expect them.

When will cruises restart?

Quantum of the Seas is sailing in Singapore, and Spectrum of the Seas might restart in China as early as January 2021. Beyond that, it remains unclear when cruises will actually resume.

While the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order opens the door to cruises starting again, there is still not enough information available to wager a guess when cruises may actually start again from the United States.

Last week, Richard Fain said the company is getting "a clearer picture", but hopes for an early restart have been dashed. Nonetheless, he believes the outlook for cruises starting up again is getting better.

Mr. Fain also thinks the dispersal of a vaccine will allow Royal Caribbean to ramp up operations faster than they had previously thought, and that means more cruise ships back in service sooner.

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