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Cruises Resuming

Public overwhelmingly told CDC that cruises should restart

In:
Category: 
05Nov2020

Earlier this summer the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) asked the public for their input on if cruises should be able to restart, and an immense amount of people thought they should.

The CDC shared in their new framework for conditional sailing that a majority (approximately 75%) of the public comments were in support of cruises being able to restart.

Over 13,000 comments were received during the 60-day period where the CDC was soliciting public input through a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register related to cruise ship planning and infrastructure, resumption of passenger operations, and additional summary questions.

Comments were open between July 20 and September 21, 2020.

Approximately 25% of respondents, including many previous cruise passengers, were in favor of delaying the resumption of passenger cruising because of the current state of the pandemic, and supported waiting until a vaccine is widely available. 

Essentially, the CDC said that the willingness of the public to accept measures to mitigate the risk of transmitting COVID-19 onboard cruise ships is "noteworthy."

As a result, the agency felt the need to give cruise lines a chance to restart sailings.

Cruisers wanted new health protocols

While the CDC has given cruise lines the opportunity to restart cruises, the onus is on the cruise industry to demonstrate cruises can be done safely despite the current public health emergency.

The CDC noted that "most" of the commenters told the agency they saw a need for increased public health measures, including health screening, testing, mask use, social distancing, travel insurance, refunds, and shipboard public health capacity as important steps to take before cruising resumes.

Approximately 98% of respondents supported cruise ship operators denying boarding to passengers with COVID-like illness or confirmed COVID-19 infection, while approximately 65% of respondents supported denying boarding to passengers with known COVID-19 exposure in the previous 14 days before embarkation.

A majority of respondents (74%) also supported requiring that cruise ship operators test passengers and crew prior to embarkation.

Furthermore, approximately 90% of respondents supported cruise ship operators reducing passenger and crew loads to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, while approximately 85% supported the wearing of face masks by passengers.

Between the public's support for new health protocols and the science behind how easily the virus could spread, the CDC felt appropriate public health oversight was necessary.

CDC considered allowing cruises with no restrictions

Given the fact the public clearly wanted cruises to restart, the CDC did consider alternative options than the conditional sail order.

One alternative considered was allowing cruise lines to return to unrestricted passenger operations without any public health oversight. The CDC felt this alternative was unacceptable because, "cruise ship travel is known to contribute to COVID-19 transmission."

Anti-cruise group tried to swing the vote

Towards the end of the open comment period, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley warned that "a small anti-cruise group" was trying to flood the comments with anti-cruise rhetoric.

He did not mention the group by name, but sifting through recent comments in the CDC's database of public comments showed one such post by a member of the group Stand.Earth.

The group went as far as to not only provide instructions on how to access the comments, but also a series of talking points to that bring up a few tropes about cruise ships.

Mr. Bayley implored cruise fans to fight back by submitting their own thoughts on if cruises should restart.

Royal Caribbean has not determined yet how it will pick volunteers for test cruises

In:
Category: 
04Nov2020

Before Royal Caribbean can restart cruises with paying passengers, they will need to conduct test sailings and it is not clear yet how volunteers will be selected for that process.

Speaking to travel agents, Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, said that test sailings will be conducted with a combination of Royal Caribbean employees and volunteers, although they are not sure how volunteers will be picked yet.

"We're going to be doing a series of sailings using our employees and other volunteers to test out the new protocols and make tweaks and modifications to ensure that everything is running smoothly and still deliver that Royal Caribbean amazing vacation experience," Ms. Freed explained.

After receiving questions from travel agents who can volunteer to help test out the sailings, Ms. Freed said Royal Caribbean is still deciding how they might pick volunteers.

"We haven't decided how we're going to select people at this point. I know it will be our employees. You must be 18 or older, but we will be looking possibly for volunteers."

"We do not have all of the details yet fleshed out."

It is also not clear when the test sailings might actually start, but Freed thinks test sailings in December is a possibility, although not confirmed.

"I do believe they will take place next month. But I'm not confirming that to be absolutely certain, because, again, we're working through all the details."

"We hope to have the trial cruises in December, but more to come."

UPDATE: You can sign up to be a volunteer for a test cruise.

Volunteers will be required to do a lot of tasks

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued 40 pages of requirements for cruise lines to be able to conditionally restart sailings, and running test sailings with volunteer passengers is a major component of the plan.

As Ms. Freed indicated, Royal Caribbean employees will have the opportunity to volunteer to test out the new health protocols. The CDC will require these volunteers be at least 18 years old and sign a waiver to acknowledge that there are risk associated with a test cruise.

In addition, all volunteer passengers and crew members must follow testing protocols, which include rapid testing prior to both embarkation and disembarkation.

"The cruise ship operator must conduct a monitored observation period and laboratory testing of volunteer passengers, as directed in CDC technical instructions or orders, prior to embarking volunteer passengers on a simulated voyage."

Simulated sailings will need to meet CDC expectations for certification, which includes passengers wearing masks, wash and sanitize hands, and practice social distancing. 

During the test cruise, the following activities must be simulated:

  • embarkation and disembarkation procedures, including terminal check-in, 
  • on board activities, including at dining and entertainment venues,
  • private island shore excursions (if a port is visited)
  • evacuation procedures,
  • transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew, or those who test positive for SARSCoV-2, from cabins to isolation rooms,
  • quarantine of all remaining passengers and non-essential crew, and
  • other activities as may be listed in CDC technical instructions and orders.

Royal Caribbean must modify meal service and entertainment venues to facilitate social distancing during the simulated voyage.

Would you want to volunteer for test cruise?

As soon as the CDC stipulated that volunteers would be needed for simulated cruises, many cruise fans expressed their interest in volunteering.

Cruise fans wrote on the RoyalCaribbeanBlog message boards if they were interested in going on a test sailing as a volunteer.

princevaliantus would love to be a volunteer, "Yep! Life is too short. Can't live in fear."

nhilding10 agreed that it would be worth giving a test sailing a try, "I would. I'm in a lucky position that I'm still relatively young enough and healthy enough that even if a worse-case scenario played out for me, I feel confident that it wouldn't be life or death for me."

At one point, USFFrank would have volunteered, but has changed his mind, "now that I'm 9 days into being covid positive with minimal symptom's, no. I'll now wait till there's a successful vaccine and I can get it."

Why cruise ships will not be able to restart right away

In:
Category: 
02Nov2020

While the CDC lifting the No Sail order removes a major barrier for the cruise lines to restart sailings, cruise ships will not be able to sail again immediately.

In fact, the Conditional Sail order is less of an open invitation to restart cruises as it is an opportunity for the cruise industry to prove it can operate safely.

There is no denying cruises are a lot closer now than they were last month, but there are still a lot of hurdles for the cruise industry to jump over before we will get onboard.

Tasks to complete before cruises restart

In the CDC's 40 page directive that outlines what cruise lines need to do in order to restart cruises, the agency requires a phased approach to restarting operations.

These phases are designed to allow the cruise lines to demonstrate that all of the new protocols the cruise industry has developed can work.

Over the summer, Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings created the Healthy Sail Panel of health experts to create a framework for cruises to operate safely.

The panel came up with 74 recommendations for how a cruise ship could operate with minimal risk.

Essentially, the Conditional Sail Order requires any cruise line to complete a few key steps:

  • Protect crew members from any health issues
  • Conduct a series of test sailings with volunteer passengers
  • Obtain a "Conditional Sailing Certificate" from the CDC

Protecting crew members

Before any hint of sailings can restart, the safety and well-being of crew members must be established through new health measures.

Cruise lines must test all crew members using a lab that is approved by the CDC.

In addition, new onboard labs must be set up so that the ships can run weekly PCR tests for crew. The CDC recommends PCR tests instead of antigen tests due to the higher accuracy.

When new crew members join the ship, they must be tested as soon as they board and quarantined on the ship for 14 days.

Simulated cruises

Once the new rules for crew members are setup, the next phase will be for test cruises with volunteer passengers that must be approved by the CDC.

It is not clear who these volunteers will be exactly, but the CDC stipulates volunteering cannot be a condition of employment or in exchange for consideration or future reward.

These simulated cruises will require both passengers and crew members to wear masks, and must include a number of real-world scenarios onboard, including:

  • Cruise terminal check-in
  • Embarkation and disembarkation procedures
  • On board activities, including at dining and entertainment venues
  • Private island shore excursions (if visiting an island)
  • Evacuation procedures
  • Transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew, or anyone that tests positive, from cabins to isolation rooms
  • Quarantine of all remaining passengers and non-essential crew

Applying to sail

If all goes well with the simulated sailings, then Royal Caribbean (or any cruise line) can apply for permission to sail again and obtain a "Conditional Sailing Certificate" from the CDC.

Even with approval, comes restrictions on how cruise lines can operate for an indeterminate amount of time.

If approved, the CDC has said cruises would not be able to be longer than 7 nights.

In addition, guests must be made aware of CDC warnings in marketing materials. Guests and crew members must be tested with PCR tests upon embarkation and disembarkation.

This is what the cruise lines wanted

If all of this sounds like a major hassle, you are right that it is "no rubber stamp" operation, however, the cruise lines have been pleading for the chance to prove they can operate safely for months.

Royal Caribbean has been adamant that it wants to apply its Healthy Sail Panel recommendations in a safe manner and prove they can operate again.

At a meeting with Vice President Pence and the CDC in early October, all of the major cruise lines presented their proposal to start cruises again and a few weeks later, the No Sail order was lifted.

In addition, the CDC's multi phase approach to cruises starting mirrors what Royal Caribbean Group executives have been saying for months would be their approach as well.

Royal Caribbean Group Richard Fain has emphasized there is no rush to start cruises, "We will not rush to return to service until we are confident that we have figured out the changes that we must make to offer our guests and crew strong health and safety protocols with the enjoyable experience that they rightly expect."

Mr. Fain spoke of the work the Healthy Sail Panel has done to provide a roadmap for cruises to restart, "the panel has recommended that this process be carefully evaluated by independent outside observers and we will do that.

"And then only on a ship or two it first and in a gradual and methodical way, we expect to start sailing again."

In a statement hours after the CDC announced the Conditional Sail order, Royal Caribbean Group characterized the move as "a positive step".

"While we are eager to welcome our guests back on board, we have a lot to do between now and then, and we’re committed to taking the time to do things right. This includes training our crew in new health and safety protocols and conducting a number of trial sailings to stress-test those protocols in real-world conditions."

In short, the new regulations by the CDC will not open a floodgate of ships starting up, but it is a pathway for a return to service and that is an important step in the right direction

What does the Conditional Sailing Order mean for cruises to restart?

In:
Category: 
31Oct2020

With the big news that the CDC will lift the No Sail order and conditionally allow cruises to restart, you might be wondering what this means and how soon cruises can actually begin.

Before cruises can fully resume, the CDC has outlined a series of steps that need to occur before cruise ships can begin taking passengers onboard. Even then, there are other restrictions.

The framework for conditional sailing is meant to potentially allow cruise ships to sail again while not putting the public health at risk.

Testing crew members

The first step is for cruise ships to have all ships run tests of the crew onboard, and to add more safeguards for them.

Before anyone else can get onboard the ship, the CDC wants cruise lines to ensure there are adequate health and safety protections for crew members.

This time will also be used to build the laboratory capacity needed to test future passengers.

In fact, the cruise lines need to meet certain testing requirements before they receive permission to conduct a simulated cruise or apply for a Conditional Sailing Certificate.

Test sailing rules

The cruise lines need to test out their policies through a series of test sailings. 

These test cruises are designed to clearly demonstrate that Royal Caribbean can "mitigate the risks of COVID-19 onboard its cruise ship".

A simulated voyage must meet the following requirements:

  • Volunteer passengers are to be told in writing of the "inherently risky activity" of their test sailing with untested health and safety protocols.
  • All volunteer passengers must be at least eighteen years old or older.
  • All volunteer passengers must have a written certification from a healthcare provider that they have no pre-existing medical conditions .
  • Royal Caribbean must conduct any simulation on a consensual basis and not as a condition of employment or in exchange for consideration or future reward. 
  • Royal Caribbean must embark additional crew members beyond safe minimum manning levels only as determined through CDC technical instructions or orders.
  •  The cruise ship operator must design and conduct a simulated voyage insofar as practicable to test the efficacy of the cruise ship operator’s ability to mitigate the risks  of COVID-19 onboard its cruise ship.
  • The cruise ship operator must conduct a monitored observation period and laboratory  testing of volunteer passengers, as directed in CDC technical instructions or orders, prior to embarking volunteer passengers on a simulated voyage.

During the test cruise, the following activities must be simulated:

  • embarkation and disembarkation procedures, including terminal check-in, 
  • on board activities, including at dining and entertainment venues,
  • private island shore excursions (if a port is visited)
  • evacuation procedures,
  • transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew, or those who test positive for SARSCoV-2, from cabins to isolation rooms,
  • quarantine of all remaining passengers and non-essential crew, and
  • other activities as may be listed in CDC technical instructions and orders.

In addition, Royal Caribbean must meet standards for hand hygiene, face coverings, and social distancing for passengers and crew, as well as ship sanitation, as may be required by CDC technical instructions or orders.

Royal Caribbean must modify meal service and entertainment venues to facilitate social distancing during the simulated voyage.

After each sailing, any issues in the health and safety protocols must be noted in an “after-action” report and address how these intend to address those deficiencies prior to applying for a COVID-19 Conditional Sailing Certificate. 

Applying for permission to cruise

If all goes well with the simulated cruises, the next step is for Royal Caribbean to request a Conditional Sailing Certificate (CSO).

Applying for a CSO entails a lot of paperwork to indicate the responsible officials from the cruise line, as well as shoreside.

Each ship will need to apply and include the ship name, carrying capacity for passengers and crew, itinerary, ports of call, length of voyage, and expected onboard or shoreside activities, for the cruise ship that the cruise ship operator intends to have certified for restricted passenger operations.

Basically, the application ensures the ship has met, and will continue to meet, the rigorous standards for safe cruising.

The CDC may limit passenger or crew capacity, itinerary, ports of call, length of voyage, onboard or shoreside activities.

These materials should be submitted at least 60 calendar days prior to the date on which the cruise ship operator proposes to commence restricted passenger operations.

Initial sailings

Once cruises are able to resume, there will be limitations on what is allowed during the "Restricted Passenger Voyages".

  • Notify prospective passengers prior to accepting a reservation of any CDC travel advisory, warning, or recommendation relating to cruise travel.
  • Royal Caribbean cannot sail or offer to sail on an itinerary longer than 7 days.
  • Royal Caribbean must screen passengers and crew and deny boarding if anyone tests positive.
  • Royal Caribbean must conduct laboratory testing of all passengers and crew on the day of embarkation and the day of disembarkation.
  • Conduct laboratory testing of any passengers and crew who report illness consistent with COVID-19 during the voyage with rapid point of care results.
  • Report syndromic surveillance and all laboratory test results using CDC’s Enhanced Data Collection form as required by CDC technical instructions or orders.
  • Meet standards for hand hygiene, face coverings, and social distancing for passengers and crew, as well as ship sanitation.
  • Modify meal service and entertainment venues to facilitate social distancing.

The CDC reserves the right to revoke a Conditional Sailing Certificate if rules are not being followed onboard.

Royal Caribbean: CDC announcement is a positive step

If all of this sounds like a lot of work, well, it is, and Royal Caribbean is ready for it.

In a statement to the media, Royal Caribbean Group reiterated its commitment to doing whatever it takes to be able to sail again.

"While we are eager to welcome our guests back on board, we have a lot to do between now and then, and we’re committed to taking the time to do things right. This includes training our crew in new health and safety protocols and conducting a number of trial sailings to stress-test those protocols in real-world conditions."

Moreover, Royal Caribbean has never been shy about saying they always planned a slow return to service.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has emphasized a slow and methodical approach to cruises restarting, "We will not rush to return to service until we are confident that we have figured out the changes that we must make to offer our guests and crew strong health and safety protocols with the enjoyable experience that they rightly expect."

Royal Caribbean eager to welcome guests back on its cruise ships

In:
Category: 
30Oct2020

Hours after the CDC announced it would end its ban on cruise ships, Royal Caribbean said it is "eager to welcome guests back onboard".

In a statement shared on social media, Royal Caribbean shared a brief message that it is ready to begin working on new protocols and trial sailings in order to be able to sail again.

"Today’s CDC announcement establishes a pathway for our ships to return to service. We’re eager to welcome guests back on board & will continue to work closely with both CDC & the Healthy Sail Panel to protect the health of our guests, our crew, & the communities where we sail."

"While we are eager to welcome our guests back on board, we have a lot to do between now and then, and we're committed to taking the time to do things right. This includes training our crew in new health and safety protocols and conducting a number of trial sailings to stress-test those protocols in real-world conditions."

"We will continue to work closely with both CDC and the Healthy Sail Panel as we make our plans, and we are confident in our ability to mitigate the risks of the pandemic and protect the health of our guests, our crew, and the communities where we sail."

Royal Caribbean has not announced any restart plans yet, nor which ships will sail first.

Work needed before cruises can restart

While the No Sail order may be gone, it will not be a free-for-all to restart sailings.

The CDC has added a great deal of restrictions on when and how cruises can restart, stipulating many new hurdles cruise lines must overcome in order for a cruise ship to be certified to sail again.

The terms of the Conditional Sailing Order are many, and include provisions for testing crew members and rigorous simulated cruises.

Test sailings will require the ship to test the efficacy of Royal Caribbean’s ability to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 onboard its cruise ship.

During the test cruise, the following activities must be simulated:

  • embarkation and disembarkation procedures, including terminal check-in, 
  • on board activities, including at dining and entertainment venues,
  • private island shore excursions (if a port is visited)
  • evacuation procedures,
  • transfer of symptomatic passengers or crew, or those who test positive for SARSCoV-2, from cabins to isolation rooms,
  • quarantine of all remaining passengers and non-essential crew, and
  • other activities as may be listed in CDC technical instructions and orders.

Royal Caribbean shares prediction for early 2021 cruises

In:
Category: 
29Oct2020

During Royal Caribbean Group's third quarter earnings call with investors on Thursday, the company provided a preview of what its early return to service might look like.

While Royal Caribbean is very cautious about expectations related to restarting, but it did provide more insight into its plans for a very limited initial return.

Jason T. Liberty, executive vice president and CFO, spoke on restart plans during his opening statement, "The situation regarding our return to service is fluid, but we are currently planning for a very limited initial return and a gradual ramp up during the first half of 2021."

Mr. Liberty emphasized that the first cruises back will be focused on short sailings, "Deployment of spring is expected to be highly focused on short sailings from key drive markets in both the U.S. and Asia-Pacific regions."

Typically, "key drive markets" references cruises that depart from ports where most of the customers can drive to the cruise ship, as opposed to guests who fly to their cruise ship.

In addition, the first sailings will be highly focused on Perfect Day at CocoCay.

"We will also make the most out of our incredible private destination in the Bahamas. Perfect Day at CocoCay."

Cruises restarting will be slow

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain reiterated the restart plans that have been the plan for months, with a slow and methodical restart.

Mr. Fain spoke of the work the Healthy Sail Panel has done to provide a roadmap for cruises to restart, "the panel has recommended that this process be carefully evaluated by independent outside observers and we will do that.

"And then only on a ship or two it first and in a gradual and methodical way, we expect to start sailing again."

"There'll be short cruises at first with limited destinations and controlled shore excursions. But as we learn and as the science continues to improve, we will expand."

A scientific approach to cruising safely

Prior to cruises starting again, Mr. Fain reminded investors that they intend to test out their new protocols with a series of test sailings.

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

Mr. Fain was confident that the Healthy Sail Panel recommendations can serve as a foundation for a gradual and methodical, healthy return to service.

"We intend to make our ships and environment a bubble, if you will, that presents less risk of transmission than our guests would find on land."

If all of this sounds frustrating, Mr. Fain remains optimistic about the future, "I am optimistic that we will soon have a path that we all see as a pathway back to resuming operations. It will be slower than I would wish, but faster than many are assuming."

Announcement coming soon?

While Royal Caribbean Group executives were hesitant to provide any insight into what the CDC might do, travel advisors are being told to expect a change.

In an email to travel advisors sent on Thursday morning, Royal Caribbean told travel agents to expect something "very soon".

Very soon – potentially as early as next week - we’ll be announcing our return to service. 

Cruise ports workers rally in support of cruise ships restarting sailings

In:
21Oct2020

Longshoremen, hotel workers, port officials and everyone affected by the effect of cruise lines shut down held a rally across different cruise ports on Wednesday in support of cruise lines being able to restart sailings again.

Cruise industry workers rallied in Florida and Texas to tell lawmakers to allow the cruise industry to restart.

Cruise lines have been shutdown since March due to the global health crisis, and are currently unable to restart cruises because of the U.S. Center for Disease Control's No Sail order that prevents passenger service in the United States.

Rallies were held in Port Canaveral, PortMiami and the Port of Galveston to protest the shutdown and the effect it has had on all the jobs.

Photos by the Port of Galveston

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) stated cruise activity in Florida supports over 150,000 local jobs, contributing $7.7 billion in wages and salaries to Floridians across a variety of local sectors and industries. 

U.S. Senator Rick Scott went on Fox News Radio to talk about the work he has been doing to try to convince the CDC to work with cruise lines on a way to restart the industry.

Senator Scott was clearly upset with the lack of any kind of progress with the CDC, "not being responsive. I don’t get it. It’s like a black hole."

Government, said Scott, should do as he did when he was Governor, and “tell people yes or no” and “make the regulations really clear.”

“Tell me no, that’s an answer,” Scott said.

Why the CDC has banned cruise ships

If you read the opening portion of the No Sail Order, it explains early on out why the CDC believes cruise ships should not operate.

"Cruise ships continue to be an unsafe environment with close quarters where the disease spreads easily and is not readily detected," is the direct rationale for why cruise ships may not sail.

In order to prove this, the Executive Summary cites CDC data on COVID-19 cases aboard cruise ships.

"Cumulative CDC data from March 1 through September 28, 2020, show a total of 3,689 confirmed cases of COVID-19 or COV1D-like illness cases on cruise ships and 41 deaths. These data have also revealed a total of 102 outbreaks on 124 different cruise ships, meaning more than 82% of ships within U.S. jurisdiction were affected by COVID-19 during this time frame. In addition, four cruise ships still have ongoing or resolving COV1D-19 outbreaks on board. Recent outbreaks on cruise ships overseas continue to demonstrate that reduced capacity alone has not diminished transmission."

In addition, the CDC cited small-scale cases of the virus on a few sailings that have restarted outside the United States.

All of this lead the CDC to believe cruise ships, "would likely spread the infection  into U.S. communities if passenger operations were to resume prematurely in the United States."

What happens if a cruise is oversold above reduced capacity?

In:
Category: 
16Oct2020

Ever since Royal Caribbean said it would lower the capacity of its ships in order to foster social distancing, many cruise fans want to know what happens if the ship is already oversold beyond that limit?

One of the many new protocols that Royal Caribbean has added to make cruises safe for everyone is its ships would not sail at 100% occupancy in order to lower load factors for social distancing.

This change is not permanent, but at least for the early sailings back, reduced capacity is expected.  In fact, for the Quantum of the Seas sailings in Singapore in December, there will be a maximum of 50% capacity for those voyages.

So how will Royal Caribbean determine who gets to cruise and who will not in order to maintain lower ship capacity?

No official answer yet

So far, there has been no official policy announced on how the cruise line will handle enforcing a lower ship capacity in regards to existing bookings.

The question of how will Royal Caribbean determine which reservations are cancelled or moved if the ship is sold above the lowered maximum capacity for the ship is one of the most commonly asked questions among RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers.

A Royal Caribbean Strategic Account Manager said this week that the cruise line is still considering options, "This is a scenario that we are aware of and looking into."

"Once we can pinpoint the exact capacity per ship, we will be able to discuss this process in more detail.  More details to come one hear back form the CDC."

Getting around the problem in Singapore

It looked like we might have gotten an answer with the announcement Quantum of the Seas would restart cruises in December, but Royal Caribbean circumvented the problem by cancelling all of Quantum of the Seas' sailings, and then announcing new sailings to book.

By doing this, Royal Caribbean avoided a scenario where that could happen, but using this strategy in the Caribbean would mean hundreds of cancelled cruises and a shorter window of time to get guests rebooked.

Moreover, Royal Caribbean already has ships sailing short cruises from Florida, whereas Quantum of the Seas was originally scheduled to do longer cruises.  This made the decision to cancel and re-issue new sailings for Quantum more of a necessity.

How would they pick which reservations are cancelled?

It is anyone's guess how Royal Caribbean will handle these sort of scenarios, and which reservations stay and which get cancelled.

Based on the comment from the Royal Caribbean Strategic Account Manager, it sounds like there will not be a fleetwide standard, but based on each ship.

Moreover, there are a few different possibilities I could see happening, but these are all just guesses:

  • Who booked the sailing first gets to stay
  • Reverse Crown and Anchor Society status
  • Airline model: ask for volunteers first, and then start randomly bumping reservations
  • Cancelling all cruises, similar to Quantum of the Seas in Singapore.

UBS Analyst Robin Farley said in June that 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 yet on what Royal Caribbean may or may not do, nor is there any signs if they would cancel certain reservations that are already booked.

Top 10 most surprising new cruise health protocols

In:
Category: 
15Oct2020

If you are anything like me, you have been combing over all the new health protocols and rules Royal Caribbean intends to add for guests once they go on a cruise.

Many of these rules are not that different from new regulations added to land-based experiences we are all adjusting to, but a few of the new rules are still somewhat surprising.

I picked out a few of the new protocols that stood out as either different than I was expecting, or perhaps intriguing as a new policy overall.

Order drinks using QR codes

In order to reduce contact between crew and guests, you will be able to to view menus on your phone and order drinks digitally.

This sort of smart enhancement combines convenience and social distancing, and it also means not having to try to find a waiter to take your order.

Face masks are required in all areas of the pool deck

Perhaps the most surprising protocol is that guests will have to wear masks while outside around the pool deck.

While masks do not have to be work in the pool or hot tub, if you are sun bathing or otherwise lounging around the pool deck, a face mask will be required to be worn.

Specifically, face masks are required in all areas of the pool deck unless you’re in the water, where you should continue to observe physical distancing.

For the outer decks, Royal Caribbean says, "On Singapore cruises, face masks are required on the outer decks, except while riding the FlowRider." Whether or not that refers to a change in policy for cruises elsewhere remains to be determined.

Need to wear face masks while waiting in line for water slides

The logistics of this rule are going to be interesting to see, but if you are in line for the FlowRider or waterslides, you will have to wear a mask.

Since you cannot carry the mask with you down the slide or while on the FlowRider, there must be a means of retrieving it after the experience is complete.

Private appointments for shopping

Shops onboard cruise ships will have limited number of shoppers at once, and will offer private appointments by request.

It is not clear if private appointments will be available for every shop, or just the high end stores.

Complimentary face mask and hand sanitizing gel

Under the stateroom protocols, Royal Caribbean says it will offer complimentary face mask and hand sanitizing gel upon your arrival into your room.

Of course, you will need a face mask in the cruise terminal and elsewhere leading up to getting to your room, but there may be alternative mask options provided by the cruise line.

Contactless room service

Another change to the old ways of doing things, room service delivery will be contactless.

Instead of the room service crew member entering your room and bringing you the food, they will drop it off, similar to how food delivery has changed on land.

No dinner buffet

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

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

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

No karaoke

Certain activities have been deemed simply not safe to be offered onboard, including karaoke, laser tag, parades and themed parties.

While Royal Caribbean says they will still offer a great deal of entertainment variety, these particular events will be absent.

Appointments will be required at the gym

Staying fit is a major priority for a lot of guests, and while the fitness center will be open, it will have a limited capacity.

The gym will still be available but due to limited capacity to allow for physical distancing, appointments will be required. 

Face masks will be required inside the gym, unless you are performing strenuous exercises, such as participating in fitness classes or using cardio machines like the treadmill, rower, and stair stepper. 

Temperature checks conducted by kiosk or by your stateroom attendant

Every day there will be a mandatory temperature check in the afternoon using touchless thermometers.

It will be performed via kiosk or by your stateroom attendant. Both guests and crew members have their temperature checked daily.

Royal Caribbean releases easy guide to new health protocols

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15Oct2020

Royal Caribbean plans to restart cruises in December on Quantum of the Seas, and has released some easy to read guides about the new changes that will be added.

The cruise line calls its collection of new health protocols, "The Royal Promise", and it encompasses all the new changes onboard to protect guests from the current health crisis.

These changes include reducing the number of guests onboard to no more than 50% occupancy, testing everyone before sailing, and enhanced cleanliness standards.

Pool Deck

Royal Caribbean ships will sail at no more than 50% occupancy, and added friendly spacing reminders anywhere a little extra guidance may be needed.

They have implemented safe spacing at restaurants, bars and lounges, shows, Casino Royale, and on the pool deck. This includes reduced capacity in pools and hot tubs.

1. More Room to Swim
Pools are limited to 50% capacity to allow for physical distancing. Face masks should not be worn, as a wet mask can cause difficulty in breathing.
2. Spaced Out Seating
Pool chairs and day beds are disinfected daily and arranged to allow for sufficient space between your group and others.
3. Increased Sanitization
All public areas and bathrooms are regularly disinfected, including daily electrostatic spraying.
4. Towels
All pool towels are washed with hospital-grade detergents at high temperatures.
5. Clean Hands on Deck
Additional touchless Purell hand sanitizer and wipes dispensers are available for you.
6. Soak Up the Space
Whirlpools are limited in capacity so you can safely enjoy bubbles with your buds.
7. Less Things to Touch
Order drinks using QR codes to view menus on your phone. And no need to sign or deal with receipts for lower-cost transactions.
8. Soft Served to You
All self-service ice cream machines will be staffed by crew members.
9. Poolside Tables
Some tables will be blocked off to give you plenty of space to sit and snack.
10. Back on Track
Enjoy some exercise on the jogging track during dedicated mask-free hours.
11. Here for You
Safety ambassadors and crew members will help ensure everyone is safe and following recommendations.
12. 
Face Masks
Face masks are required in all areas of the pool deck unless you’re in the water, where you should continue to observe physical distancing

Outdoor Activities

Royal Caribbean has added enhanced health and safety protocols to its signature outdoor activities, including the FlowRider and mini-golf.

1. Increased Sanitization
All public areas and bathrooms are regularly disinfected including daily electrostatic spraying.
2. Clean Hands on Deck
Additional touchless Purell hand sanitizer and wipes dispensers are available for you.
3. Spaced Out Seating
Chairs and benches are disinfected daily and arranged to allow for a safe distance between your group and others.
4. FlowRider® & Waterslides
Water activities do not require face masks while riding, but need to be worn while waiting in line.
5. Dry Slides & Rides
Dry slides and other rides will be sanitized regularly during open hours.
6. Sports Court
Enjoy instructor-led competitions and drills that give you new ways to exercise while physically distanced.
7. Mini Golf & Table Tennis
Sanitized equipment can be checked out from the Sports Desk, or sanitizing wipes will be provided for use after each player.
8. Zip Line
All equipment is sanitized by staff between riders.
9. Rock Climbing Wall
All gear is sanitized by staff between climbers and liquid chalk has replaced shared regular chalk.
10. Regular Reminders
Announcements are made periodically to encourage physical distancing and floor markers help direct you where to safely stand.
11. Here for You
Safety ambassadors and crew members will help ensure everyone is safe and following recommendations.
12. Face Masks
On Singapore cruises, face masks are required on the outer decks, except while riding the FlowRider.

Other Fleet Favorite Experiences

North Star
Limited to 4 riders, or 5 riders of the same travel group. Physical distancing is observed. Reserve on Cruise Planner.

RipCord by iFLY
Staff and guests must wear face masks until entering the flight tunnel. Physical distancing is observed. Reserve on Cruise Planner.

Indoor areas

New stringent cleaning protocols ensure safe public hangouts, with smart enhancements like virtual queues and QR code menus.

1. More Room for You
Indoor venues are limited to 50% capacity with floor markers and directional signage to safely guide you.
2. Increased Sanitization
All public areas are regularly disinfected including daily electrostatic spraying and frequent disinfecting of high-touch surfaces.
3. Getting Around
Elevators are limited to four people at a time or your travel group only. Stairs are available as usual and railings are cleaned frequently.
4. Clean Hands on Deck
Additional touchless Purell hand sanitizer and wipes dispensers are available for you.
5. Indoor Cafés and Restaurants
Tables and seating are sanitized regularly. Some tables will be blocked for physical distancing.
6. Bars and Lounges
Tables, seating and bar tops are sanitized regularly. Some seats will be blocked for physical distancing.
7. Virtual Queuing
Your phone will alert you when it’s your turn to be helped at the Guest Services or Shore Excursions desks.
8. Private Shopping
Stores will welcome a limited number of shoppers at once, and private appointments are available by request.
9. Less Things to Touch
Order food and drink using QR codes to view menus on your phone. And no need to sign or deal with receipts for lower-cost transactions.
10. 100% Fresh, Filtered Air
Fresh ocean air from outside is continuously supplied to all public spaces.
11. Here for You
Safety ambassadors and crew members will help ensure everyone is safe and following recommendations.
12. Face Masks
Face masks are required. In restaurants, bars and lounges, seated guests may eat and drink without masks.

Staterooms

Royal Caribbean has enhanced their stateroom cleaning protocols, cleaning all high-touch surfaces with disinfectants and cleaning agents that have been certified by the local authorities.

In addition, your room has a continuous flow of 100% fresh air from outside, even if you don't have a balcony or window.

1. Certified Cleaning Agents
Hospital-grade disinfectants are used daily to clean all high-touch surfaces.
2. Crisp, Clean Linens
All towels, bedding, and pillows are laundered with hospital-grade detergents at high temperatures.
3. 100% Fresh, Filtered Air
Fresh ocean air is continuously supplied to every stateroom from outside, with a total air change of up to 12 times per hour.
4. Daily Distanced Service
Your room is only serviced and sanitized by a stateroom attendant while you are out — and there are still towel animal surprises.
5. Room Service
We know Room Service is your favorite stateroom ritual. And new contactless delivery protocols ensure you’ll enjoy it safely.
6. Welcome Amenities
Complimentary face mask and hand sanitizing gel are provided upon your arrival.
7. Safety Briefing
Now you can watch the muster video from the comfort of your in-stateroom television.
8. Digital Daily Planner
Conveniently access your Cruise Compass from the Royal App on your phone.
9. Face Mask
Face masks are not required while in your stateroom or balcony.

 

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