Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) on Monday outlined several new health and safety protocols that its members will adopt as part of a phased-in, highly controlled resumption of operations in the Americas.
These mandatory health protocols have been submitted by CLIA on behalf of its members in response to the CDC’s Request for Information related to the safe resumption of cruise operations. The hope is that with the new protocols, cruise lines, which are currently under a CDC No Sail Order until Sept. 30, 2020, could resume sailing sometime by the end of 2020.
“We foresee a phased, sequential startup of operations continuing to learn from the scientific and medical experts and seeing what is happening in Europe so far, we are confident ships can operate successfully,” Adam Goldstein, global chairman of CLIA and former Royal Caribbean executive, said during a press call.
Core elements of the plan
These core health and safety protocols consist of number of things, including universal testing prior to embarkation for all passengers and crew. This commitment is “one of the more significant ways on how cruising will be different upon resumption, and has already been put in place by member lines in Europe,” said Brian Salerno, senior vice president of Maritime Policy of CLIA.
CLIA does not specify type of testing or time frame prior, because the dynamic of knowledge about testing changes so rapidly by time sailings resume there may be more effective tests available, Goldstein explained.
Another component is the mandatory wearing of face masks, which will be required whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained for passengers. Physical distancing requirement are six feet, as established by the CDC, and to accomplish this ships can reduce overall capacity, reduce capacity at venues such as restaurants, and adjust flow patterns for how people move throughout trip.
Ventilation and air management strategies, to reduce the risk of the airborne virus, will also be implemented where feasible using enhanced filters or other technology, as well as increasing fresh air into ventilation more often.
There will be prearranged logistics put in place in case of confirmed cases, requiring agreements in advance with governments and ports cities. Ships will have pre designated isolation rooms and quarantine areas. If a passenger does test positive, they will be transferred to the appropriate heath care facility.
Finally, only authorized shore excursions by cruise lines will be permitted to preserve desired level of protection.
“These essential building blocks have been derived by the very detailed work that has been taken on by the cruise lines and have been aggregated to develop these core elements which will form the basis for an industry-wide policy,” Salerno said. While there is no specific timeframe for when the CDC will remove its ban cruising, “we’d like to be able to savage some of the 2020 season,” he said.
Several cruise executives were also on the call, expressing support for the policy that will be implemented across the board.
“We are on a path in collaboration with the approval of regulators and destinations to resume operations in the U.S.,” said Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation & plc. “We have already begun sailing in Europe and those best practices are being shared. The submission today through CLIA reflects all of these experiences.”
Carnival’s Costa Cruises resumed operations on Sept. 6, with its first ship, Costa Deliziosa, sailing from Trieste with Italian guests and visiting Italian ports. Costa’s second ship, Costa Diadema, set sail from Genoa on Sept. 19 and the brand will expand with two additional ships sailing in the Mediterranean – Costa Smeralda in October and Costa Firenze in December. AIDA Cruises plans to restart operations on Oct. 17.
The Healthy Sail Panel, from Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Group, has worked hard over a long period of time, in a collaborative way with the CDC and other cruise lines to support a resumption of cruising in U.S. ports, said Richard Fain, CEO of Royal Caribbean Group.
“The panel and CLIA have defined a way for resumption of service,” he said. “We all share the same goal and were only going to get there through collaboration. We have benefitted the world has learned a lot in the last six months, we said we wouldn’t start until we were ready but we think we can safely proceed forward with our objective.”
Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line, agreed with the other executives that this has presented “the most important challenge the cruise industry has ever faced.” Del Rio said it’s essential to develop the confidence among the authorities, the agents, the guests, and the whole cruise ecosystem, in order to successfully resume.
Del Rio also added that the process of getting crews back on ships and training will take time, and that’s where the phased approach comes in. “A ship may sail only a day or two and sea with the crew and recalibrate our procedures and work ourselves up having guests on board, and hopefully have success like we have seen in Europe.”