Two major players in the cruise industry are working together in an effort to restore consumer confidence in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. announced on Monday that they have teamed up to develop a new set of enhanced cruise health and safety standards that will restore confidence in the cruise industry.
The cruise giants have asked Governor Mike Leavitt, former Secretary of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services (HHS), and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to serve as co-chairs of a newly formed group of experts called the “Healthy Sail Panel,” which enlist leaders in public health, infectious disease, biosecurity, hospitality, and maritime operations.
Several experts will also serve as senior advisors to the panel, including Dr. Caitlin Rivers, who is a faculty member and epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and an expert in emerging infectious disease epidemiology and outbreak science, and Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky, who is a professor emerita of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Emory University School of Medicine and an expert in pre-travel health advice and education, global health, and the epidemiology of travel related infections and infectious diseases.
The panel is tasked with collaboratively developing recommendations for cruise lines to advance their public health response to COVID-19, improve safety, and achieve readiness for the safe resumption of operations.
They will report their initial recommendations by the end of August, and can be freely adopted by any company or industry that would benefit from the group’s scientific and medical insights.
Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, and Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., said they initiated the panel to assure the plans they will submit to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other regulators apply the best available public health, science, and engineering insights. The work of the panel will be shared with the entire industry and regulators.
“In convening the Healthy Sail Panel, we sought the participation of a diverse group of leading experts in areas of science and public health that are directly relevant to the considerations listed by the No Sail Order,” said Governor Leavitt.
While the No Sail Order put in place by the CDC is set to expire July 24, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) member cruise lines decided to voluntarily extend the period of suspended passenger operations through at least Sept. 15 as it was “increasingly clear that more time will be needed to resolve barriers to resumption in the United States.”
“We know that the public health issues that must be addressed are complex, and in some areas, tackling them will require novel approaches,” Dr. Gottlieb said. “Our goal in assembling this team of leading experts was to develop best practices that can improve safety and provide a roadmap for reducing the risks of COVID-19.”