Health

What changes will Royal Caribbean make to keep guests healthy once cruises resume?

In:
Category: 
19May2020

While many cruisers are anxious to return to cruising, some are wondering what the cruise experience will be like in first few months once cruises resume.

Without a doubt, Royal Caribbean will implement a wide variety of policy changes to the onboard experience, but it remains to be seen exactly what these changes will look like until a formal announcement is made.

Here is a look at  the changes we know about, as well as what we think is reasonable to expect, once cruises start back up again.

Confirmed changes

Royal Caribbean has been very quiet in terms of announcing specifics to what it will be like once cruising resumes, but a few bits and pieces are generally known.

Prior to shutting down cruises, Royal Caribbean implemented some rules, as well as retracting others.

Temperature Checks

One of the first policies the cruise line added even before sailings stopped was to add mandatory temperature screening for guests.

Beginning on March 6, 2020, the cruise line conducted mandatory temperature screenings that looked for temperatures above 100.4°F or 38° C. Anyone with that kind of a high temperature would undergo a secondary health screening and have a medical professional evaluate and determine if they are fit to sail.

Enhanced sanitization

For the last few sailings, Royal Caribbean also took additional steps onboard its ships and in the cruise terminals by thoroughly sanitizing the cruise ship terminal before and after every sailing.

The cruise line also added extra medical staff on each sailing, special sanitizing of high traffic areas onboard the ship, and complimentary consultations with medical experts for all guests & crew.

No doctor's note will be required to cruise

Although never implemented on any sailings, Royal Caribbean added a rule to prevent any guest 70 years or older from boarding a ship without a doctor's note, but then rescinded it in April.

The rule came from Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)  and said guests who are 70 years old or older, or have a pre-existing chronic medical condition would not be able to sail unless a doctor's note affirmed the guest's good health.

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Service Vicki Freed confirmed a health form is no longer required for those travelers ages 70 plus, nor are there restrictions for those guests with underlying health conditions.

Buffet eliminated

It looks like the buffet is also going to be done away with in light of health and safety concerns.

Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley spoke on the topic recently, and indicated the Windjammer buffet will not be a traditional buffet, and instead transformed into something else.

"We've got teams working on every single element of the guest experience, and we obviously have a team working on the buffet. I think in the beginning, there will not be a buffet in the beginning, that's how I see it. It depends again upon the timing. We will utilize the space, we will utilize the Windjammer, but in all probability it won't be a classical buffet. It will be something more akin to a restaurant."

"I think the key focus on dining, for example, is making sure that our guests have plenty of choice. But now, that plenty of choice has to be put through the lens of distancing, and safety and health, etc. in a more acute way. I think there will be changes for sure, and I think the word 'buffet' will diminish and we'll replace it with a new concept."

Plan is in the works

Beyond what is listed here, Royal Caribbean has indicated repeatedly they are working with health officials to craft a plan of new policies and requirements to keep guests safe.

"You need to be timing your return to service so it fits with how consumers are thinking about taking a vacation. We have some protocols that we need to really get right, and of course we need to be working with the CDC on all of these things," Bayley said recently about returning to service.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain has spoken on numerous occasions about the work going on behind-the-scenes to prepare for the resumption of cruises.

"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."

"At Royal Caribbean, we're using this time of the suspension to learn as much as we can about this disease, and how to contain it. We're using this time to consult with experts in the field. We're trying to understand the science. We're using this develop new ways of doing things to protect the health of our guests, and our crew. Our objective is to make our ships not just good enough, but the best they can be."

Unconfirmed changes

In lieu of much information on what policy changes Royal Caribbean is planning, lots of people have speculated on what could be coming based on what other cruise lines, theme parks and municipalities are announcing.

There are plenty of steps Royal Caribbean could take to keep guests safe, including screenings, temperature checks, on-site medical professionals, social distance markers and additional shields and safeguards, mandatory PPE training for all staff, and more.

Face masks while cruising

The role of wearing a face mask in some capacity onboard the ship is a topic of discussion among many cruisers who are concerned with what level of social distancing will be required.

While Royal Caribbean has not commented at all on the role masks will play, the cruise line did file a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for "Seaface".

The trademark lists the description of the trademark simply as:

Trademark applications usually quite vague in regard to their intended use, so it remains to be seen precisely how it will be used, if at all.

Anecdotally, while a great majority of cruisers have no issue with going back on a cruise without a vaccine, many seem to be concerned about being forced to wear a mask.

Digital muster drills

Another trademark filing made during the shutdown is for something called "emuster".

There is no other information provided, but the name has many thinking it indicates Royal Caribbean might be changing its safety drills to make them more of a self-service role.

The muster drill is a compulsory drill required of all guests to gather in designated areas around the ship in order to understand where to go and what to do in the case of a real emergency.

Currently, the muster drill involves large groups of guests lining up in close proximity to each other while being counted and briefed on what to expect in the case of an emergency.

Your thoughts

What changes do you think Royal Caribbean will make to keep its guests safe? What sort of protocols or policies do you see as absolutely necessary, and will any of these stop you from cruising? Share your opinions in the comments!

This is the longest we've gone without Royal Caribbean cancelling more cruises

In:
Category: 
11May2020

If you are keeping score at home, we have now gone through the longest period of time since Royal Caribbean voluntarily suspended all of its cruises without any more cruises being cancelled.

Here is the breakdown of the recent timeline of cancelled cruise announcements:

The time between the first and second announcements of cancelled cruises was 11 days, and then the second and third round took 23 days.

At the risk of jinxing things, today marks 25 days since the last round of cancelled cruises.

This statistical anomaly is not necessarily an indicator that more cruises will not be cancelled. In fact, Royal Caribbean disclosed last week that more cancelled cruises are possible, as continued disruptions to travel and port operations in various regions.

However, it is a good sign that with shelter in place laws being lifted around the United States and abroad, perhaps this just one more sign that we are getting closer to cruises resuming.

More than any other question, cruisers are curious to know when will Royal Caribbean resume cruises.

Royal Caribbean has not provided much detail on when it intends to resume cruises, other than stating it will resume cruises on June 12, 2020 (with the exception of Canada, New England and Alaska sailings).

Carnival Cruises announced a more fleshed out plan to resume sailings later this summer, while simultaneously cancelling more cruises. The announcement seemed to carry more weight with it, as it provided more than just a new target date to sail again.

When do you think cruises will start back up again? Share your predictions in the comments!

Royal Caribbean trademarks name for sanitary masks

In:
Category: 
22Apr2020

The current health crisis has lead Royal Caribbean to file a new trademark for its own brand of sanitary masks.

Royal Caribbean has filed a trademark application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for "Seaface".

The trademark lists the description of the tradmark simply as:

Trademark applications usually quite vague in regard to their intended use, so it remains to be seen precisely how it will be used, if at all.

The trademark was filed on April 8, 2020 and is intended for cruise ship services. The trademark lists it as a "medical apparatus".

It has been widely speculated that Royal Caribbean, like all cruise lines, will have to take extensive new measures to protect guests against the spread of any communicable ailment on its ships.

Deserved or not, cruise lines have been the scapegoat for many in the court of public opinion that they are extra susceptible to person-to-person spread.

When will Royal Caribbean resume sailings?

In:
Category: 
21Apr2020

There are currently no Royal Caribbean cruises sailing due to the current global situation, and the most commonly asked question these days is, "When will cruising resume?"

The answer of when cruises will resume sailing has two answers: the official answer and the real answer.

Officially, Royal Caribbean says the majority of its fleet plans to resume service on August 1, 2020. China sailings are scheduled to resume July 1st.

The longer answer is the August 1st date is a moving target, as Royal Caribbean has changed the time it intends to start cruising again two different times.

Hurdles to overcome

The reality is cruising will resume once conditions allow for cruise ships to resume service without a public health emergency hanging overhead. Just like friends and family wondering when movie theaters, sporting events, or school will resume, the answer to when cruises will definitely start up again is nearly impossible to answer.

"Legally, the pandemic has to no longer be a health crisis -- that's the easiest way," said Motley Fool contributing partner and podcast/on-air personality, Dan Kline.

There is also legal barriers that prevent cruises from starting up again, such as many countries closing off its borders to cruise ships as well as the United States' 100-day 'No-Sail Order' issued by the CDC.

Royal Caribbean Senior Vice President of Sales and Trade Support & Service Vicki Freed said on a recent webinar with travel agents that with the current climate, "things can change rather quickly," and that, "we all have to take it day by day."

When should you expect cruises to start again?

There is no "inside information" or secret algorithm to knowing when cruises will resume, because no one really knows.  By the same token, there is no way to know if your upcoming Royal Caribbean cruise this summer, fall or even next year is in jeopardy of being cancelled.

The answer I provide to readers who ask if their sailing is going to happen or not, is simply, "I don't know" because there is no definitive way to know what to expect. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

My guess is the further out your cruise, the better your chance of it occurring.

For now, you should take Royal Caribbean's date of operations to resume in August as the defacto answer, but prepare for more cancellations.

The answer of when cruises will resume may be better determined by looking out your window and seeing when life begins to return to some kind of normalcy. The sooner daily life starts back up, the less impediments (and social blame) the cruise lines will have to face in starting up again.

Many cruisers look at the CDC's 'no-sail' order as the major obstacle for Royal Caribbean to cruise again, but it is important to note that order can be rescinded at any time.

When do you think cruises will resume? Share your best guesses in the comments!

Florida Governor gives go-ahead to start reopening some beaches and parks

In:
Category: 
18Apr2020

If you are looking for signs of the world resuming some level of normalcy, you may want to consider Florida Governor  Ron DeSantis has given the okay for some beaches and parks to reopen if it can be done safely, and north Florida beaches became among the first to allow people to return.

Beaches in the greater Jacksonville, Florida area reopened for the first time in a month, howeever they have restricted hours, and they can only be used for walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing.

Gatherings of 50 or more people are prohibited and people must still practice social distancing.

With Florida being the home of so many cruise ships, the re-opening of beaches is perhaps a sign of the current global situation eking slightly back to normalcy.

The governor said it was important for people to have outlets for getting exercise, sunshine and fresh air.

“Do it in a good way. Do it in a safe way,” DeSantis said.

Should you reschedule your Royal Caribbean cruise in 2020 or 2021?

In:
Category: 
13Apr2020

As you are likely aware, Royal Caribbean has shutdown all of its ships until at least mid-May due to the current health crisis.

In fact, all cruise lines have taken similar measures that aim to keep people safe, but the global voluntary suspension has disheartened plenty of vacations.

There are no cruises right now

For a month, Royal Caribbean has voluntarily shutdown its cruise ships around the world. 

Initially cruises were cancelled until mid-April, and then Royal Caribbean extended its suspension of cruises until May 12 (with Canada, New England and Alaska cruises cancelled through June 30, 2020.

On top of that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended its “No Sail Order” for all cruise ships by 100 days. As of the writing of this blog post post, it is not crystal clear what impact that will have, but clearly there are no cruises to be offered in the short term.

How long could the shutdown last?

The short answer is, no one knows.

The new No Sail Order by the CDC sets a possible timeline for how long cruise ships could be out of service. Of course, that order only applies to US sailings and it is possible cruises could resume in other parts of the world sooner.

Royal Caribbean has not made any changes yet as a result of the no-sail order, simply stating they are aware of the order, "and are studying how best to respond to its provisions."

If the Health and Human Services Secretary  declares that there is no longer a public health emergency, then the order could get lifted immediately. Alternatively, the director of the CDC could decide to rescind or modify the order in response to new data on public health or other factors. If neither of those things happens, then the order would expire of its own accord 100 days after it's officially published in the Federal Register. 

 If all of this sounds vague, that is because it is and there is not any definite time when ships will certainly sail again.

 If July comes around and we are still in the midst of these issues, it is possible the CDC could extend the no-sail order once again.  However, if things improve quicker than that, the order can be lifted immediately. 

When should I reschedule my cruise?

The general consensus seems to be the later you schedule your cruise, the better your chances that your cruise will not be impacted by another round of cancellations.

I will be certain to share any news of cruises resuming on RoyalCaribbeanBlog. Conditions seem to be changing on a daily basis, and I believe it is important to consider things could improve drastically just as much as they could deteriorate.

The good news is there is little risk in booking another cruise in the sense Royal Caribbean provides the Cruise with Confidence program to allow you to cancel up to 48 hours before your cruise. This program is currently valid on sailings through September 1, but I imagine it would be extended out if necessary.

The later you book your cruise, the less likely daily life will still be impacted by the current crisis in the same way it is today. I would recommend putting a refundable deposit down to cover your bases, and if nothing else, give yourself something to do during this social standstill: you can start planning a cruise and provide a goal to look forward to at the end of all of this.  

If you do put a deposit down, be sure to book with a travel agent, as the travel agent community is truly struggling right now and could greatly benefit from your business.

When are you planning to go on a Royal Caribbean cruise again? Share your plans in the comments!

CDC releases new cruise ship guidelines for disembarking passengers during COVID-19

In:
06Apr2020

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its recommendations for cruise ship travelers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These new recommendations were released over the weekend, and are aimed at ensuring cruisers get home as quickly and safely as possible.

The CDC is coordinating these efforts with the Coast Guard, Customs and Border Protection, port authorities, local and state health departments, and Department of State.

Most notably, the CDC recommends that cruise lines get passengers who have no symptoms or mild symptoms off the ship as quickly and safely as possible in the United States, and ensure they get home directly via chartered or private transportation.

The CDC specifically says commercial flights and public transportation should not be used.

Prior to this recommendation, the CDC said it was acceptable for passengers who exhibited no symptoms and passed a temperature check to travel on on commercial flights or public transportation, assuming they wore a face mask and self-isolated for 14 days once home.

Royal Caribbean announces refunds for cancelled sailings during temporary cruise suspension due to Coronavirus pandemic

In:
Category: 
13Mar2020

Royal Caribbean has announced its refund policy for guests affected by canceled sailings between March 14 and April 10, 2020.

Royal Caribbean has voluntarily suspended its US sailings for 30 days due to the gravity of the public health crisis confronting the United States in the form of COVID-19.

Guests on affected sailings between March 14 - April 10, 2020 will automatically receive a 125% Future Cruise Credit that can be used anytime before December 31, 2021. Future Cruise Credits will be automatically issued on Monday, April 13, 2020 via email.

If a guest prefers a full refund instead of a Future Cruise Credit, they can get a 100% refund instead. Guests have up until December 31, 2021 to request a full refund. Refunds can be expected 30 days after submitting the request.

Refund requests can be done automatically via Royal Caribbean's form, or by calling Royal Caribbean.

Any pre-purchased amenities and packages, such as internet, beverage packages, dining or RoyalUp upgrades, will automatically be refunded.

If you purchased air or hotel through Royal Caribbean, these will be automatically refunded to you as well.

Royal Caribbean to suspend cruises for 30 day due to coronavirus

In:
Category: 
13Mar2020

Royal Caribbean International announced it will voluntarily suspend all operations of its cruise ships for 30 days due to the Coronavirus epidemic.

Beginning at midnight on March 14, Royal Caribbean will pause the fleet's United States sailings for 30 days. In addition, the global fleet will be suspened at midnight on March 15.

"We are reaching out to our guests to help them work through this disruption to their vacations, and we are truly sorry for their inconvenience. We are also communicating with our crew to work out the issues this decision presents for them. We know this adds great stress to our guests, employees and crew, and we are working to minimize the disruption."

5:37 UPDATE: Cruises that depart US ports before midnight and international cruises will operate their scheduled itineraries. U.S. ships already at sea will finish their itineraries as planned.

6:56 UPDATE: Vicki Freed, Royal Caribbean International's Senior Vice President of Sales, Trade Support and Service, reports US sailings will resume operations on April 11, 2020.

8:24PM UPDATE: Royal Caribbean has released refund options for guests affected by this shutdown.

MARCH 14 10:57AM UPDATE: Royal Caribbean has decided to suspend the sailings of our fleet globally at midnight tonight. All current sailings will conclude as scheduled. Royal Caribbean expects to return to service on April 11, 2020.

Royal Caribbean joins a number of other cruise lines who also voluntarily shut down temporarily in hope they can reopen when the COVID-19 outbreak slows down, including Princess Cruises, MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Line and others.

Prior to shutting down, Royal Caribbean attempted to provide confidence to consumers by greatly expanding the window to cancel a cruise up until 48 hours

Earlier on Friday, Norwegian Cruise Line also announced they would temporarily shut down until mid-April.

Royal Caribbean denies boarding to anyone over 70 without doctor's clearance

In:
Category: 
12Mar2020

Royal Caribbean has updated its coronavirus protocols effective Monday, March 16, boarding will be denied to any person age 70 or older, unless the guest provides written verification from a qualified treating physician that certifies the person has no severe, chronic medical condition and is fit to travel.

In addition, boarding will be denied to any person with a severe, chronic medical condition, including those specified by the CDC.

Guests of all ages will be screened prior to boarding, regarding underlying health issues that may prevent them from sailing, i.e.  chronic heart, lung, liver, or kidney disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or cancer.

For guests 70 years or older, they can have this letter template filled out by a physician.

This new policy is in addition to the cruise line's enhanced screening policy that include mandatory temperature screenings, denial of boarding to anyone that has been to mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Europe, Iran, or South Korea 15-20 days prior to embarkation.

Royal Caribbean has also implemented additional protocols that include professional medical treatment; isolation of unwell individuals from the general ship population; and intensified ship cleaning, air filtration, and sanitization procedures.

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