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


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 December 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.

Implementation of new protocols

Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings created a joint venture to craft a layered approach of protocols designed to allow cruise ships to operate safely.

The Healthy Sail Panel came up with 74 steps it believes will allow cruise lines to operate safely.

The Panel’s recommendations are grounded in the best scientific and medical information available and are intended to meaningfully mitigate public health risks to those who sail. Recommendations include testing, the use of face coverings, and enhanced sanitation procedures on ships and in terminals. 

The next step is for Royal Caribbean to take those protocols and turn them into rules and cruise line policy. There is no specific timetable when that might occur, but it is expected sooner than later.

Once Royal Caribbean comes up with their cruise line-specific rules, it will announce them and submit their plan to resume cruises to the CDC.

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 No Sail Order that extends through the end of October, 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!

Royal Caribbean will add social distancing on its cruise ships


Royal Caribbean revealed on Monday its new panel of experts who are working on a new set of health protocols to keep guests and crew safe from COVID-19 on its cruise ships, and social distancing will be one part of the approach.

The Healthy Sail Panel is a collaboration with Norwegian Cruise Line to create a rich list of health and safety standards in science, technology and engineering practices, that meet or exceed the requirements of global regulators, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Royal Caribbean informed travel agents that the panel will come up with the new protocols that could take the form of many things, including enhanced embarkation screening, temperature screenings, testing options for guests and crew, enhanced sanitization and disinfection protocols, upgraded air filtration, social distancing, reduced occupancy, and changes to dining and other initiatives.

While the specifics are still being sorted out, social distancing will be part of the general plan in one of many forms.

Initially, both Norwegian and Royal Caribbean expects to reduce the overall guest capacity on board its fleets to allow for easier social distancing.

Last week, Royal Caribbean divulged its ships would not sail at 100% occupancy in order to lower load factors for social distancing.

As of right now, reducing guest capacity is not expected to be permanent.

In addition, other forms of social distancing are being explored, including reduced capacity at dining and other public venues, staggered embarkation and check-in and the addition of more options for entertainment such as additional show times to allow for social distancing.

Will people still want to cruise?

Social distancing is just one aspect of what the panel will recommend, and it leads some to question if added protocols such as masks, social distancing and the like will take away the appeal of a cruise vacation.

In a written statement, Royal Caribbean thinks these added regulations will not impact demand.

"We continue to see consumer demand for the cruise product. We expect to provide the same core guest experience that makes cruising so popular, just in an adapted format. With the gradual reopening of other leisure experiences, consumers are having to adapt to the new normal and cruising will be no different."

"We are confident that our guests are eager to sail again and are counting on us to keep them safe and healthy, a responsibility we take very seriously."

In addition, cruise prices will not increase due to the work that needs to be done to the ships?

"We do not have plans to increase pricing at this time for enhanced health and safety measures. We expect to provide the same core guest experience that makes cruising so popular"

How can going on a cruise ship ever be safe?

Even the most dedicated cruise fan has questioned the safety of going on a cruise in the era of COVID-19, and the Healthy Sail Panel aims to address those concerns.

The collaboration between Royal Caribbean and Norwegian seeks to create comprehensive health and safety protocols for the cruise industry, which meet or exceed required global public health standards.

"As new insights emerge, we will continue to evolve protocols and standards as appropriate."

Royal Caribbean Group CEO talks about how health panel will lead to cruises resuming


Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line announced on Monday they were teaming up to create a panel of health experts for the purpose of crafting a plan for cruise lines to resume service.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke with one of the Healthy Sail Panel's co-chairmen, Governor Mike Leavitt, that shed more light onto how this panel was created, where it is going, and what its goals are in order to get cruise ships sailing again.

Each cruise line has a requirement to issue a plan or to develop a plan to demonstrate to various regulators that they have adapted to this new environment to assure as much safety as is possible. The job of the panel is to populate the thinking of Royal Caribbean and Norwegian so that when they think when they provide those plans, it has been populated with the best public health, engineering and scientific information available.

Many panelists worked for the CDC

In coming up with the panel of experts, the Healthy Sail Panel is made up of people with a variety of backgrounds, including working at the government department chiefly responsible for approving cruise ships returning to service.

Governor Leavitt noted that a majority of the panelists have worked at the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which provides insight into what the panel needs to address.

"The majority of them actually worked at the Centers for Disease Control in any capacity, from running major departments, to actually running the Center for Disease Control. Several of them have deep academic interest in this area. Things like ventilation, things like testing and sanitation are all very important subcomponents of how you deal with this new risk environment that we're dealing them."

Nothing is absolutely 100% safe

In creating the panel, the group had to recognize nothing in society is every completely safe, and you have to accept that risk before crafting a response for it.

"We put together this combination not just because of their subject matter expertise, but because they have had long experience in evaluating ideas and being able to come to an understanding that there's no place in our society that you can say is absolutely 100 percent safe. We all manage risks every day, whether we're walking across the street or opening a package of food. There's some kind of risk involved in all of that."

"The idea isn't that we can eliminate all of that. The idea is we can manage it and understanding that perspective and recognizing that it requires judgment to do this well. We look for people who had long standing judgment, experience, whose track record gave them credibility and who had some level of public health or scientific expertise or engineering that could assist in being able to evaluate new ideas and determine when we had actually done all we can do."

When will the panel be done?

While this new panel sounds great, everyone is wondering when cruises will resume again and how long this process will take.

Governor Leavitt characterized the panel's work as "complex", and did mention an August 15th date as a milestone date for an initial phase that aims to come up the basic changes that need to be made for cruise lines.

"We want to make sure that we do what can be done to eliminate risks. We need to, in fact, learn to adapt to this. So we're going to take one quick tour through everything. And that's what we're doing between now and August the 15th. And then we're going to present the the very evident changes that can be made to enhance safety, that can be incorporated in plans that the various cruise lines will then submit to regulators."

Following that date, Governor Leavitt indicated to tackle the more challenging and in-depth problems facing the cruise lines. 

"We'll then use the period of time after that to look at deeper innovations. We're already finding some very exciting ways to adapt technology, for example, to make it not only safer but more convenient and and to a large extent, a smoother experience generally."

Parallels between cruising and the NBA

Governor Leavitt sees a parallel between what cruise lines are doing to try to get back to cruising and the National Basketball Association (NBA) is doing to resume its season.

Mr. Fain asked if there was an outcome from this panel that protects crew and guests, and the work the NBA is doing encourages Governor Leavitt.

"We have seen interest in the National Basketball Association, for example, has begun to replay. And they're working their way back, demonstrating an ability and willingness to adapt as they go."

"And I look at what's happening with the NBA right now where they're they've consolidated all the games in one place where they could essentially create an isolation that where they could conduct their business in a more controlled way."

"Well, it's become evident to me that the isolation can be seen not as a disadvantage, but as a great advantage. And one of the ways in which will adapt will be to utilize that as an asset as opposed to seeing it as simply a liability."

Royal Caribbean creates expert panel to develop cruise ship health policies


Royal Caribbean Group announced on Monday a new collaboration with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings to create a panel of health experts that will oversee development of enhanced cruise line health and safety protocols.

Known as the "Healthy Sail Panel", this group is comprised of top experts in public health, infectious disease, biosecurity, hospitality and maritime operations in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The panel is tasked with collaboratively developing recommendations for cruise lines to advance their public health response to COVID-19, improve safety, and achieve readiness for the safe resumption of operations.

Serving at the head of the new panel will be Governor Mike Leavitt, former Secretary of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services (HHS), and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The Healthy Sail Panel has been working for almost a month, and should have its initial recommendations by the end of August.

Both Norwegian and Royal Caribbean have pledged that their work will be “open source,” and could be freely adopted by any company or industry that would benefit from the group’s scientific and medical insights.

“This unprecedented disease requires us to develop unprecedented standards in health and safety,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group. “Bringing aboard these respected experts to guide us forward demonstrates our commitment to
protecting our guests, our crews and the communities we visit.”

“We compete for the vacationing consumer’s business every day, but we never compete on health and safety standards,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. “While the cruise industry has always had rigorous health standards, the unique challenges posed by COVID-19 provide an opportunity to raise the bar even higher.”

Fain and Del Rio said they initiated the panel to assure the plans they will submit to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other regulators apply the best available public health, science and engineering insights. The work of the panel will be shared with the entire industry and regulators.

Meet the panel

The panel’s members are globally recognized experts from various disciplines, including public health, infectious disease, biosecurity, hospitality and maritime operations.

Governor Mike Leavitt

Mike Leavitt was a three-term Governor of Utah and served as Administrator of the EPA and Secretary of HHS under President George W. Bush. He is the founder of Leavitt Partners, a firm that provides investment support, data and analytics, member-based alliances, and direct services to clients to support decision-making strategies in the value economy.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb

Dr. Scott Gottlieb was the Commissioner of the FDA from 2017-2019 and served as the agency’s Deputy Commissioner for Medical and Scientific Affairs from 2005- 2007. He is a physician trained in internal medicine and is currently a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Helene Gayle, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Gayle is CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, one of the nation’s leading community foundations. Prior to this role, for almost a decade, she was president and CEO of CARE, a leading international humanitarian organization. An expert on global development, humanitarian and health issues, Dr. Gayle spent 20 years with the CDC, working primarily on HIV/AIDS. She worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, directing programs on HIV/AIDS and other global health issues. She also launched the McKinsey Social Initiative (now, a nonprofit that builds partnerships for social impact. Dr. Gayle serves on public company and nonprofit boards, including The Coca-Cola Company, Colgate-Palmolive Company, the Brookings Institution, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, New America, the ONE Campaign, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and the Economic Club of Chicago. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Public Health Association, the National Academy of Medicine, the National Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H.

Dr. Julie L. Gerberding is Executive Vice President and Chief Patient Officer for Merck, leading all aspects of strategic communications, global public policy, population health and patient engagement. A former head of the CDC and a world-renowned public health expert, Dr. Gerberding is deeply committed to achieving sustainable global health impact and tackling some of the most challenging health priorities of our time. This includes addressing critical issues such as affordable access to important therapies, advocating for health policies that promote and sustain innovation of new medicines and vaccines, and improving maternal mortality through the Merck for Mothers program — a public-private partnership helping to meet the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal to reduce maternal mortality. Prior to joining Merck, Dr. Gerberding served as the Director of the CDC from 2002-2009 and was the first female to hold that position. While at the agency, she led more than 40 emergency responses against crises such as anthrax, SARS, bird flu, foodborne outbreaks and natural disasters. Previously, Dr. Gerberding was a tenured faculty member in Infectious Diseases at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF). She continues as an Adjunct Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at UCSF.

Steven Hinrichs, M.D.

Dr. Steven Hinrichs is Professor and Chair in the Department of Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and the Director of the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory (NPHL), and Director of the University of Nebraska Center for Biosecurity. In his position as laboratory director, he has been responsible for the development of a statewide program for the rapid identification of biological agents of mass destruction. He is principal investigator of multiple national awards from the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL) and the CDC and the U.S. Department of Defense for the development of an outreach program to extend training and expertise in the early recognition of biological warfare agents. Dr. Hinrichs received his MD from the University of North Dakota and is board certified in Anatomical and Clinical Pathology. His research laboratory focuses on molecular diagnostics and the role of viruses in cancer. Dr. Hinrichs has published over 130 papers in basic science and medical journals.

Michael Osterholm, M.D., Ph.D.

Michael Osterholm is one of the nation’s foremost experts in public health, infectious disease and biosecurity. As the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, he is an international leader on the world’s preparedness for pandemics. He has led numerous investigations into internationally important disease outbreaks, including foodborne diseases, hepatitis B in healthcare settings and HIV infection in healthcare workers, and he is a frequent consultant to the World Health Organization, the National Institutes of Health, the FDA, the U.S. Department of Defense and the CDC. From 2001 to 2005, Dr. Osterholm served as a special advisor to the Secretary of HHS on issues related to bioterrorism and public health preparedness. From June 2018 through May 2019, he served as a Science Envoy for Health Security on behalf of the U.S. Department of State. He has also been appointed to the National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity and the World Economic Forum’s Working Group on Pandemics, among other prominent advisory positions.

Stephen Ostroff, M.D.

Dr. Ostroff brings years of experience in public health, having served at high-level positions at the FDA and the CDC. He was the Acting Commissioner of the FDA from 2015-2016, and before that served as the FDA’s chief scientist. Ostroff joined the FDA in 2013 as chief medical officer in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and senior public health advisor to the FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine. Prior to that he served as deputy director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the CDC, where he was also acting director of the CDC’s Select Agent Program. While at the CDC, he focused on emerging infectious diseases, food safety and coordination of complex outbreak response. He retired from the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service at the rank of Rear Admiral (Assistant Surgeon General). Ostroff was also the director of the Bureau of Epidemiology and acting physician general for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and has consulted internationally on public health projects in South Asia and Latin America. Ostroff graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in 1981 and completed residencies in internal medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and preventive medicine at the CDC.

William Rutala, Ph.D., M.S., M.P.H.

Dr. Rutala has experience medically managing a variety of diseases and extensive experience studying epidemiology and virology, particularly managing outbreaks and emerging pathogens. Dr. Rutala’s research interests are the etiology and prevention of healthcare-associated infections with a special focus on disinfection and sterilization of reusable medical and surgical devices (e.g., endoscopes, surgical instruments). Other areas of active research include contribution of the hospital environment to disease transmission, hand hygiene, preventing transmission of infectious agents, including multiply-drug resistant organisms, prevention of healthcare-associated Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, investigation of healthcare-associated outbreaks, and new and emerging pathogens in healthcare.

Kate Walsh, Ph.D.

Kate Walsh is the Dean at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University and E.M. Statler Professor. A professor of management, she is a leader in education for the global hospitality industry; and a renowned expert in organizational service design, leadership and career development, as well as the impact of strategic human capital investments. In addition to authoring and contributing to books, Dr. Walsh’s articles have appeared in numerous research outlets. She has over 20 years of academic experience, including in her current role as dean. In addition, Dean Walsh holds extensive industry knowledge from serving as the former director of training and development for Nikko Hotels International, corporate training manager for the former Bristol Hotels, and senior auditor for Loews Corporation. She is also a former New York State Certified Public Accountant. Since the beginning of her administration as dean, Dean Walsh has focused on positioning the school for the future of education. This includes undertaking a comprehensive renewal of the graduate and undergraduate curricula, developing the school's online global presence, identifying international partners for master-level program development, and providing thought leadership for the hospitality industry, most notably through the creation of industry research partnerships for faculty, fostering new initiatives through the school's six centers and institutes, and providing faculty-developed resources to guide the industry. Dr. Walsh received her Ph.D. from the Carroll School of Management at Boston College and her M.P.S. degree from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration.

Captain Patrik Dahlgren

Captain Patrik Dahlgren is the Senior Vice President of Global Marine Operations and Fleet Optimization for all Royal Caribbean Group global brands. Dahlgren’s seagoing experiences started as a bridge officer aboard tugboats, yachts and an array of cargo vessels and ferries. He rose through the ranks with over 15 years onboard Royal Caribbean International cruise ships, with his last seagoing command as Master of Oasis of the Seas and Quantum of the Seas. He was a lead contributor to the Quantum of the Seas development and received the esteemed RINA (Royal Institute of Naval Architects) award for its innovation and contributions to maritime safety.

Robin Lindsay

Robin Lindsay is the Executive Vice President of Vessel Operations for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Lindsay was appointed to this position in January 2015. In this role, Lindsay is responsible for Marine & Technical Operations, Hotel Operations, Entertainment, Product Development, Port & Destination Services, Fleet Personnel, Out Islands and New Build & Ship Refurbishment for all three of the company's brands – Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Prior to joining Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., Lindsay served in a similar capacity as Executive Vice President of Vessel Operations at Prestige Cruise Holdings, the parent company of Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. Lindsay's history with the company goes back to the inception of Oceania Cruises in 2003, where he joined as Senior Vice President, Hotel Operations and Vessel Operations. Lindsay earned his B.S. degree from Louisiana Tech University.

And more

In addition, several experts will also serve as senior advisors to the panel, including Dr. Caitlin Rivers, who is a faculty member and epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and an expert in emerging infectious disease epidemiology and outbreak science, and Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky, who is a professor emerita of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Emory University School of Medicine and an expert in pre- travel health advice and education, global health, and the epidemiology of travel-related infections and infectious diseases. Dr. Kozarsky serves as an expert consultant to the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine in travelers’ health with the CDC.

European Union publishes recommendations for cruise ships once cruises resume


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.;


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?


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


Royal Caribbean cancelled most cruises through October 31, 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


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


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


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.