While the public waits for cruise lines in the U.S. to be given the go-ahead to start sailing again, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and its members lines are committing to do whatever they can to keep passengers and crew members safe.
This week, CLIA announced its plan to test every single guest and crew member before they board cruise ships, one part of a multi-layered approach that it hopes will not only help the CDC make the decision to allow cruises to operate again, but will allow consumers to book and sail confidently.
The policy will be required for all ships with a capacity of 250 guests or more.
During Seatrade Cruise Global Virtual on Tuesday, Adam Goldstein, the vice chairman with Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and CLIA Global Chair, called the move just one step of a multi-layered approach to deal with the threat of COVID in the cruise industry.
Goldstein said that while some lines already operating in Europe are testing guests at the cruise terminal, CLIA’s plan doesn’t call for that.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be at the port,” he said. “Crew and/or guests can embark the ship but they must have a negative test result,” whether taken before they leave home or “whatever it may be.”
As testing is becoming “easier” and “getting better sequentially as we go forward,” universal testing has become a realistic goal for many cruise lines and a powerful weapon against the threat of COVID-19.
Universal testing has been a major part of almost every plan formulated in the industry to resume cruises safely.
MSC Cruises was one of the first lines to offer that plan, and has since done so successfully for its Mediterranean return to cruising earlier this summer. Royal Caribbean and NCLH’s Healthy Sail Panel also made the recommendation, calling pre-board testing the “single most important step that can be taken to prevent disease introduction onboard.” CLIA’s plan for gradual resumption, which it submitted to the CDC in September, also included universal testing.
There is still no definite date for when cruises in the U.S. will resume. CLIA was on schedule to meet with the CDC last Friday to talk about the future of the CDC’s “No-Sail” order. That meeting was ultimately scrapped after news broke of President Trumps’ positive COVID-19 test.
For the moment, Norwegian Cruise Line has cancelled all sailings through November while Carnival Cruise Line has cancelled all sailings outside of those leaving from Florida ports through the end of the year.
Royal Caribbean's Richard Fain this week said that Royal will first look to train its crew on the new protocols and then do some test sailings before opening it up to guests. Those first guest sailings will include limited destinations, with just a few ships, and only a small number of shore excursions on offer.
Other lines, including Disney Cruise Line, have extended cancellations into December, while others, like P&O Cruises, are looking to 2021.