What the experts say it will take to restart cruising

Healthy Sail Panel lists over 70 recommendations to resume US ocean sailing

The Healthy Sail Panel – a group of medical and scientific experts tasked with developing health and safety guidelines in order to kick-start the return of ocean cruising from the US – has released its recommendations.

The panel was formed in June by Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Both cruise companies operate in the ultra-luxury cruise market with the Silversea and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands respectively. This week the panel filed their extensive report with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which includes 74 best practices to protect the public health and safety of guests, crew and the communities where cruise ships call.

Recommendations include testing, the use of face coverings, and enhanced sanitation procedures on ships and in terminals.

Capacity restrictions were highlighted as a necessary requirement in order to maintain physical distancing, “especially as procedures are being tested to ensure they are working properly,” the report said, adding that capacity can be “gradually increased as conditions permit”.

Another area of focus is the onboard medical capabilities of cruise lines. The panel’s recommendations suggest cruise operators bolster their ability to cater for ill guests and crew, requiring them to have sufficient clinicians and supplies to treat patients, as well protective equipment for medical staff to treat COVID-19 patients.

“The Healthy Sail Panel spent the last four months studying how to better protect the health and safety of guests and crew aboard cruise ships,” said the panel’s Co-Chair Dr. Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration.”Taken as a comprehensive approach, we believe the Panel’s robust public health recommendations will help inform strategies for a safe resumption of sailing.”

Mike Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services and the panel’s Co-Chair, said the group had undertaken an ‘ambitious, cross-disciplinary, public health examination to develop standards and guidelines that create the highest level of safety in the complex environment of a cruise ship.”

“We studied the industry’s experiences combating the pandemic – and we then incorporated the many lessons learned and advances made by medicine and science over the past six months. The Panel’s recommendations are grounded in the best scientific and medical information available and are intended to meaningfully mitigate public health risks to those who sail.”

Richard D. Fain, Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group and Frank Del Rio, President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd, said each cruise line would adopt the Panel’s recommendations to develop new operating protocols, which will be submitted to the CDC and other authorities around the world for review and approval.

Fain and Del Rio said each company will use the Panel’s recommendations to inform the development of new, detailed operating protocols, which will be submitted to the CDC and other authorities around the globe for review and approval – an important milestone in the process of resuming sailing around the world.

The Healthy Sail Panel identified five areas of focus every cruise operator should address to improve health and safety for guests and crew, and reduce the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships. They are:

  • Testing, Screening and Exposure Reduction
  • Sanitation and Ventilation
  • Response, Contingency Planning and Execution
  • Destination and Excursion Planning
  • Mitigating Risks for Crew Members

In each category, the Healthy Sail Panel created practical and actionable recommendations to address specific safety concerns. Among the recommendations are key strategies such as:

  • Taking aggressive measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from entering a ship through robust education, screening and testing of both crew and guests prior to embarkation
  • Reducing transmission via air management strategies and enhanced sanitation practices
  • Implementing detailed plans to address positive infection on board, including contingencies for onboard treatment, isolation and rapid evacuation and repatriation
  • Closely controlling shore excursions
  • Enhanced protection for crew members

CLIA Managing Director Australasia, Joel Katz, welcomed the core elements for the Americas and said they would help inform the development of global measures. 

“These initiatives are part of a response that goes far beyond the measures of other industries and involves stringent protocols covering the entire cruise experience, from booking to disembarkation,” Katz said. “The core elements, which are applicable to CLIA member ocean-going cruise ships operating in the Americas, will help inform CLIA’s global policy work, and represent an important milestone to support our ongoing discussions with the Australian and New Zealand governments.”

View the full Healthy Sail Panel report here:  Royal Caribbean Group or Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

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