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Cruises Resuming

A decision on lifting the cruise ship ban could be coming as early as this week

In:
Category: 
14Oct2020

Royal Caribbean is prepared for a possible announcement of cruises restarting next week, depending on what happens with the No Sail order.

Royal Caribbean's Senior Vice President, Sales, Trade Support and Service, Vicki Freed, informed travel agents that there is a possibility next week if the U.S. Center for Disease Control lifts the No Sail order.

During a webinar with travel agents, Freed mentioned the possibility of talking about restarting cruises if an announcement is made, or delaying that discussion if no decision is reached.

"There is a chance that we will have a return to service Coffee Chat, if the CDC gives us the green light this week."

That announcement could be postponed, "If we don't hear back this week from the CDC."

The No Sail order is a ban on cruise ships that is prohibits any cruise ships with 250 or more passengers from operating in the U.S. through October 31, 2020.

Royal Caribbean has cancelled of its cruises through November 30, 2020.

Royal Caribbean has been shutdown since mid-March, and the No Sail order has been a major obstacle to any restart plan in North America.

The No Sail order will remain in effect until one of the following occurs:

  • The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency,
  • The CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations, or
  • October 31, 2020.

The CEO of Royal Caribbean and four other cruise lines met with Vice President Pence and the CDC last week to discuss the detailed steps the cruise lines will employ to operate safely.

The meeting was set up to discuss how the current global health crisis impacts the cruise industry, along with the CDC’s No Sail Order, and the Cruise Lines International Association and Healthy Sail Panel’s proposal to resume sailing operations in a safe and responsible manner.

While the No Sail order is stopping cruises in North America, Royal Caribbean will begin sailing with Quantum of the Seas in December out of Singapore.

These 3- and 4-night Singapore sailings will be limited to residents of Singapore.

Royal Caribbean’s plan to avoid a ship getting quarantined

In:
Category: 
12Oct2020

It seems a lot of cruisers are more concerned about being stuck on a cruise ship for days or weeks due to a mandatory quarantine than any other possible risk associated with going on a cruise in 2020.

A couple of cruise ships in Asia became media spectacles right before cruising shut down, and that has left a lot of cruise fans concerned regardless of any rules or regulations, that they could be stuck on a ship for an extended period of time due to a positive case onboard.

To that point, Royal Caribbean's Healthy Sail Panel spent a lot of time working towards how to respond if there is a case that gets onboard.

The basic premise is for the system to catch it early before it can become widespread on the ship.

"We respond properly. We have a extensive contingency plan so that we don't have to go through one of these processes of quarantining huge numbers of people," said Royal Caribbean Group Chairman Richard Fain. "We take care of the the the small number that we catch early and everybody else can go about their business."

The Royal Promise is the name of the broad new set of policies that will address every aspect of a healthy sailing when cruises resume, and it provides what Royal Caribbean will do to avoid a ship quarantine.

Health and safety protocols, guest conduct rules, as well as regional travel restrictions and clearance to visit ports of call, are subject to change without notice based on ongoing evaluation, public health standards, and government requirements. Onboard and destination experiences, features, itineraries, and guest conduct rules vary by ship and destination and are subject to change without notice.

What happens if someone starts feeling unwell?

If someone starts to feel ill, they can contact the medical staff by phone. The medical team will evaluate the guest in the comfort and privacy of their stateroom and determine if a SARS-CoV-2 test is needed.

Royal Caribbean's onboard medical facilities are prepared to offer robust treatment with rapid RT-PCR testing onsite; state-of-the-art equipment enhancements like hospital-grade ventilators with CPAP and BiPAP capabilities; a dedicated Controlled Care Center where potentially infectious guests or crew can be cared for away from general medical areas; and more critical care beds on each ship.

The enhanced Medical Center has added more doctors and nurses, upgraded equipment, and a dedicated Controlled Care Center where potentially infectious guests or crew can be cared for away from general medical areas.

What is the response plan if there is a positive case?

In the event any guest or crew tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 onboard, Royal Caribbean has developed a robust, tiered response plan in place, which was developed with guidance from local authorities in Singapore and the Healthy Sail Panel.

The tiers increase protocols and vigilance onboard while providing transparent updates to guests the whole way.

In partnership with local authorities, Royal Caribbean has developed transport protocols to ensure they can get guests home safely.  These transport agreements in Singapore are part of the plan to avoid being "stuck" on a cruise ship.

Quarantine & isolation

While the Royal Promise does not cover what happens specifically once there is a case onboard, the Healthy Sail Panel recommendations provides more detail.

First, the Panel recommends Royal Caribbean should designate certain cabins on the ship as isolation and quarantine spaces.

Based on the person's exposure risk, symptoms, etc, the medical staff can determine whether, when, and where an individual should be isolated or quarantined.

In addition, the Panel echoes Royal Caribbean's tiered response plan by defining small-, moderate-, and large-scale debarkation scenarios in advance of cruising, including a clear decision-making process to guide thinking about when the threshold has been met for each risk level.

Moreover, the cruise line should establish offsite incident management with designated medical professionals’ advice to respond rapidly and to aid in decision-making.

Costs

Should the need arise, Royal Caribbean will cover COVID-19-related costs up to $25,000 SGD ($20,000 USD) per person in your travel party, for onboard medical costs, cost of any required quarantine, and travel home.

If you test positive for COVID-19 when you are onboard, Royal Caribbean will provide a 100% refund of the price of your cruise for you and your travelling party.

In addition, the cruise line will provide your medical treatment onboard, arrange safe quarantine for you, and make arrangements for your safe return home.

Royal Caribbean does encourage its guests to take out comprehensive travel insurance for any supplementary costs, in accordance with our standard booking conditions.

Three things Royal Caribbean needs to go right for cruises to resume in the U.S.

In:
Category: 
12Oct2020

While Royal Caribbean announced it will restart cruises in Singapore, the big question is when will they be able to cruise again from the United States?

The next couple of weeks could be a moment of truth for the industry. In order for cruises to resume sooner than later in the USA, at least three key things have to go Royal Caribbean's way.

Based on comments from last week's meeting with the cruise lines and Vice President Mike Pence, here are the three big things that have to fall into place for Royal Caribbean.

No outbreaks on ships in Europe

There are limited cruises operating in Europe (including Royal Caribbean's partial subsidiary TUI Cruises), and how well they do is very important to cruises having any chance in the United States.

If we start to see an outbreak on any of the European sailings, they are using the same safety protocols that cruise lines hope to employ here in the United States. A problem there would create significant cause for concern for cruises to safely operate there.

Thus far, European cruises have operated with limited issues. The "system" has to work well there for there to be proof that something similar can work in the United States.

No dramatic rise in the case count in Florida

Another potential impact to restart plans is if the home of Royal Caribbean's major cruise ports sees a lot of cases around the state, which would put the healthcare infrastructure at risk.

The cruise lines are going to be watching that case count very closely in Florida, as that is where the industry want to initially restart sailings.

Despite the fact Royal Caribbean has pledged 100% testing of its passengers and crew, a rising case count is not good for any business and the cruise lines need a stable situation at home.

The CDC will either lift or extend its ban

Perhaps the most critical step for Royal Caribbean is the end of the prohibition against cruises operating from the United States.

Closer to the end of October, U.S. Center for Disease Control will make the decision to extend or lift the No Sail order

In the meantime, the cruise operators are in the process of bringing back a lot of their crew to ensure that if they do get the green light from the CDC, that they have a staff available to set sail.

One of the major takeaways from the meeting last week was the cruise line's proposal will be presented to the Task Force in order to provide a recommendation to President Donald Trump with regard to next steps on the CDC’s No Sail Order.

A lot of what happens over the next couple of weeks could factor into what happens to the No Sail order.

Could crew members returning be a sign Royal Caribbean is serious about cruises restarting?

In:
10Oct2020

If cruise fans are looking for an indication that cruises might be resuming, the return of crew members is a good sign.

With Royal Caribbean and other cruise lines hinting at the possibility of cruises restarting before the end of the year, crew rehirings could be a sign of what is coming next.

CNBC's Seema Mody reported cruise operators are in the process of "bringing back a lot of their crew that were sent overseas" so that there is staff available to set sail if the CDC allows cruise lines to resume sailings.

All over social media, there have been postings by crew members that they are hearing from colleagues of being hired back, or even evidence they have been rehired. As with any social media posts, it is important take these claims with a grain of salt, but every day there seems to be more evidence of crew reporting they are going back.

One such post provided detailed instructions for other crew members on what to expect when they report back for duty, and the many quarantine and testing procedures they will need to follow.

In addition, crew hiring opportunities are even popping up online that could possibly indicate that the cruise line is serious restart plans.

Royal Caribbean does not usually announce crew movements or hirings, but there seems to be a lot of ancillary evidence that a general strategy is in place.

The game plan for cruises to restart

Royal Caribbean has been very transparent about how it sees cruises restarting in the United States.

The basic plan is to have a few test cruises that involve crew members and Royal Caribbean employees only that can simulate a real cruise in order to gauge the effectiveness of all their new policies.

Following those test sailings, short cruises to a private destination only would be offered. If all goes well, Royal Caribbean could then start adding back longer sailings.

This game plan follows the recommendations of the Healthy Sail Panel, as well as what cruise line executives have said over the last few weeks.

As it relates to hiring back crew, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said recently that they will need crew back in order to start up the test sailings.

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

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships are currently at minimum manning, so in order for any test sailings to occur, they need crew back to simulate as closely as possible real-world scenarios.

Where and when will you have to wear a mask on a Royal Caribbean cruise?

In:
Category: 
09Oct2020

Perhaps no other new protocol for cruise ship guests is as hotly debated as the role masks will play when cruises resume.

Wearing a mask has unfortunately become a divisive topic, and many RoyalCaribbeanBlog readers have voiced their disdain (or indifference) to wearing a mask once cruises resume.

With Royal Caribbean releasing its new Royal Promise health protocols, here is a look at what the new rules say about wearing a mask onboard.

Masks will be required

Wearing a mask in some, but not all, areas of the cruise ship will be compulsory when cruises resume in Singapore (and elsewhere eventually) in December.

All guests and crew will be required to wear a mask onboard.

Specifically, Royal Caribbean says guests should wear face masks in nearly all public settings regardless of physical distancing measures but will not be required to wear face masks in their own stateroom.

There are exceptions, however, such as dining venues, where guests can eat and drink without face masks while seated, provided physical distancing is observed. All restaurant seating will be arranged to allow for physical distancing, so guests can eat and drink without face masks while seated, and tables and chairs will be disinfected.

Also, guests should not wear masks while engaged in activities that may cause the mask to become wet, like when swimming in our pools, or when participating in strenuous activities, such as jogging, running, or fitness classes at the Vitality Spa and Fitness Center.

Face masks will be required at all bars or nightclubs when not seated and actively eating or drinking with your party. 

Crew members will wear masks at all times, and gloves.

Types of masks not allowed

Not every kind of mask will be allowed, with the cruise line following CDC recommendations.

CDC recommends that masks have two or more layers, be worn over the nose and mouth, be worn by individuals two years of age and older, and should not be worn by children younger than two, people who have trouble breathing, or people who cannot remove the mask without assistance.

The following type of masks are not allowed on Royal Caribbean:

  • neck gaiters
  • open chin bandanas and scarves
  • face masks with valves

How will Royal Caribbean enforce face mask protocols?

You will find safety ambassadors on its cruise ships who will be tasked with enforcing the Guest Health, Safety, and Conduct Policy as well as the cruise line Refusal to Transport Policy.

Shoreside, safety ambassador teams will work with local authorities to enforce both our Guest Health, Safety, and Conduct Policy and any applicable laws.

Failure to follow any of our policies or any applicable laws may result in enforcement action, up to and including denial of boarding or removal from Royal Caribbean cruise ships.

Masks are a temporary change

If having to wear a mask on a cruise is a deal breaker for you, then the good news is it is not intended to be a permanent change.

The Healthy Sail Panel recognizes that as disease prevalence goes down, face covering requirements may be loosened over time based on the latest available scientific data, public health agency recommendations, and risk modeling.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke about the need for masks initially, "It is one of the single most effective things you can do to reduce the transmission of this disease. And at least when we start, it will be an important part of the process."

"There are people who object to doing so and won't do so, but we will make sure they understand that that is, at least in the beginning, a part of the experience. And if they don't want to wear a mask, then they shouldn't come on the cruise."

"At least in the beginning, it will be an important part of our protocols on board. And I think a lot of people understand the need to protect against transmission on board."

Royal Caribbean will not have a dinner buffet option on first cruises back

In:
Category: 
08Oct2020

The first Royal Caribbean cruises that restart in Singapore in December will feature a few less experiences and venues.

Royal Caribbean indicated that certain onboard venues or experiences will operate differently or not be available at all, at least initially.

Specifically, 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.

In addition, while most onboard experiences will be operating normally, some will not due to health concerns including:

  • Laser Tag
  • Parades
  • Themed parties
  • Karaoke

All venues will be operating with reduced capacity (mirroring the reduced capacity of the ship) to allow for physical distancing, and some will operate with adjusted or extended hours.

All restaurant seating will be arranged to allow for physical distancing, so guests can eat and drink without face masks while seated, and tables and chairs will be disinfected regularly.

All crew will wear face masks and gloves at all times.

Restaurants and bars will feature QR codes that will let you view menus right on your phone.

Protocols will change over time

If this sounds awful, fret not, because Royal Caribbean has said repeatedly that it intends to change and evolve these policies over time.

The first cruises back will have the most stringent rules, but many of these sort of protocols are not expected to be permanent.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain recently confirmed these sort of changes are not forever, "At least in the beginning, it will be an important part of our protocols on board. And I think a lot of people understand the need to protect against transmission on board."

Many of the 74 recommendations are labeled as a temporary change that could be modified or removed later.

Royal Caribbean recognizes that what is happening today in the world can be drastically different than next month or six months from now. As a result, many of the policies are meant to at some point be discontinued over time.

Royal Caribbean announces cruises will restart in Singapore on Quantum of the Seas

In:
08Oct2020

Royal Caribbean announced it has reached a deal with Singapore to offer cruises on Quantum of the Seas, beginning in December.

An array of 3- and 4-night cruises have been approved by the Singapore Government and begin sailing on December 1, 2020.  

These new cruises are only available to residents of Singapore are now available for booking.

Royal Caribbean has been working with local health and tourism authorities to follow all requirements and guidelines including the CruiseSafe Certification standards, which all cruise lines must obtain prior to sailing out of Singapore.

When cruises resume in Singapore, a variety of comprehensive new health protocols will be implemented onboard Quantum of the Seas including:

  • Testing and screening
  • Upgraded Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems that enhance filtration
  • Stringent cleaning practices
  • Reduced capacities for greater physical distancing
  • Expert medical care and onboard facilities

These protocols will continuously be evaluated and enhanced as new procedures and advancements in technology become available. 

"Singapore residents are adventurous travelers, and we are so excited to give them the opportunity to get away from their daily grind and enjoy a thrilling world-class Ocean Getaway, with total peace of mind. While the cruise experience will be different than it was pre-pandemic, we are committed to providing the signature Royal Caribbean holiday that guests know and love, while keeping the health and safety of everyone on board as our top priority" said Angie Stephen, managing director, Asia Pacific, Royal Caribbean International. "I extend my deepest gratitude to the Singapore Government for their collaboration and support and confidence in Royal Caribbean to deliver a safe cruising experience. We share their strong commitment and focus to reignite the local economy and bring back jobs and services supporting the travel industry."

Just yesterday, Royal Caribbean had cancelled all of Quantum of the Seas previously scheduled cruises from Singapore through March 2021.

The first pilot cruises will be:

  • Round-trips with no ports of call
  • Sailing at a reduced capacity of up to 50 percent
  • Only open to Singapore residents

Cruises from Singapore are the only sailings to have been resumed by Royal Caribbean International.  Earlier this week, the cruise line cancelled all of its cruises through the end of of November.

Spotted: Navigator of the Seas listed on PortMiami schedule for possible test sailings

In:
06Oct2020

Eagle-eyed cruise fans have spotted what could potentially be the first Royal Caribbean cruise ship to test sailings.

The PortMiami vessel movements calendar lists Navigator of the Seas as in port two times in October, indicating the ship may arrive for a series of test sailings.

  • October 15 to October 19
  • October 24 to October 28

Each time Navigator of the Seas is at PortMiami, she is scheduled to move between different terminals. On October 17, from Terminal A to Terminal D; and then on October 26 from Terminal A to Terminal G.

This was first reported by CruiseCritic.

Test cruises without passengers

Royal Caribbean has said before it begins offering cruises to the public, it will conduct a series of test sailings to work through the variety of new health protocols.

Executives have said they will start slowly by training crew and embarking on a series of non-revenue test sailings, where Royal Caribbean can rehearse and we can validate the new protocols.

The results will be evaluated by independent observers before a few short sailings begin again.

If those test sailings go well, then short cruises with limited destinations and controlled shore excursions will be offered.

Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley recently spoke about the idea of using employee-only cruises first, "I said that the first cruise that we will operate through, Royal Caribbean International, will be an all employee cruise, a little bit like a shakedown cruise, because then we can test and take a look at in real-life operations all of the protocols that we're putting into place. And so our first cruise is going to be an employee cruise."

More recently, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman Richard Fain said on Tuesday that test cruises will be first, "We're going to start with test cruises, I think, and and then a few shorter cruises and and gradually build up as we build up our experience. But I do think that's going to start this year. I'm highly optimistic."

Cruises restarting in 2020: "optimism level is very high"

In:
Category: 
06Oct2020

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain says his "optimism level is very high" that cruises could restart in 2020.

Speaking at the "State of the Global Cruise Industry" keynote event of Seatrade Cruise Virtual, Mr. Fain shared a sense of confidence that cruises could still restart sometime in 2020.

While Fain did not divulge specifics, he did say his confidence stems from Royal Caribbean's eagerness to get back to work, as well as the investment in using science to guide their restart plans.

"The Healthy Sail Panel report detailed look at 74 protocols, 74 recommendations that give us the confidence that it's safe to go back."

"We think we have a set of procedures that really put us in a position to say, yes, we have now come to the point where we can provide a healthy cruise."

In fact, Mr. Fain went on to say that he still believes cruises can restart this year.

"We're going to start with test cruises, I think, and and then a few shorter cruises and and gradually build up as we build up our experience. But I do think that's going to start this year. I'm highly I'm highly optimistic."

"Safer than your hometown"

Fain believes the nature of cruise ships allows them to control the environment more more than somewhere on land, and that is an advantage for the industry.

"Our objective when we started, was can we do this in a way that makes being on a ship as safe or safer than being in your hometown town."

"While there are there are special circumstances on ship that require special precautions, there's also something that no one else has, which is the ability to control the environment as well as we do."

Fain touted the recent announcement that it would implenent 100% testing of every person entering a ship, which is something that no other travel sector is doing.

Cruise lines working together

Another significant milestone Richard Fain sees is the entire industry working together to learn and innovate.

"We're all working in this together. We all are learning about COVID. We're all learning about the technology, the testing, the therapies. All of these things are coming together, working with the governments abroad, working in Europe, in the Caribbean, in Asia, in the United States, working with the CDC."

Mr. Fain was joined by the CEOs of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Carnival Corporation and MSC Cruises.  While some executives were willing to characterize the likelihood of cruises starting this year, Mr. Fain simply stated, "I don't like putting numbers on on things like this, but I am smiling."

Royal Caribbean hasn't ruled out 2020 cruises yet

In:
Category: 
26Sep2020

After Royal Caribbean Group announced the initial recommendations of its Healthy Sail Panel, Royal Caribbean's top executives said that cruises in 2020 are not completely out of the question.

There is no doubt that every cruise line would love to salvage something of the 2020 season, but the question is how feasible is it to have cruises this year?

Speaking to a few different media outlets this past week, sailings from the United States at some point in 2020 have not been completely ruled out.

When Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain was asked by Cruise Critic if cruises starting in November was realistic, he stated, "I think the idea that we could be having cruising in November, under a very strict set of protocols, is absolutely in the cards."

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley told The Points Guy that there is scenario he can envision where cruises begin in November, "If everything lined up, then we would be feeling good about starting in November."

Mr. Bayley also spoke to Seatrade Cruise News and said, "I feel like things are lining up. Everything's beginning to fall in place".

Both executives cautioned readers in every statement that any resumption of cruises in 2020 is dependent on a things falling into place, and there is ample examples in the past few months why caution is necessary.

Royal Caribbean has been shutdown since mid-March, and currently has sailings possibly restarting in November, but still has not released its cruise-line specific new health protocols derived from the Healthy Sail Panel recommendations, nor have they released a startup plan of which ships will begin sailing and where.

The other major factor is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) No Sail Order, which is set to expire on September 30, but could still be extended.

Richard Fain told travel advisors his company has not yet heard back from the CDC officially on the Healthy Sail Panel protocols, nor if the No Sail Order will be extended or not.

"No, we only just gave it to them on Monday, and as you've seen, it is a extensive and comprehensive document, but we have not heard any comment back from them since we submitted it on Monday, nor would we have expected to do that quickly."

Mr. Fain indicated that its new cruise line policies will be issued "relatively soon".

Assuming Royal Caribbean follows the recommendations for restarting cruises that the Healthy Sail Panel outlined, they will begin with a series of test cruises, where Royal Caribbean employees act as guests and the cruise experience is simulated in order to test and adjust the new policies.

The cruise industry has a history of conducting test sailings when they introduce a new product. These are normally several cruises of short duration with selected invited guests and limited itineraries, which gives the operator the opportunity to train the crew and refine its procedures. We believe that such a process could be helpful in the introduction of these protocols and procedures, giving the operators the opportunity to ensure that their programs are well understood and work appropriately.

In conjunction with succesful tests, it is likely the cruise line will announce some kind of start up plan where certain ships and sail dates are confirmed as ready to sail.

All of this work is centered around the question of can Royal Caribbean come back to a safe and healthy environment, which is what Mr. Fain asked the Panel.

"And their answer was, if you adopt all these protocols, you can."

"And obviously we are going to, and we believe that will greatly accelerate the time, so we're looking forward to coming back sooner."

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