Cruise giants Royal Caribbean & Norwegian unveil major safety plan to get ships sailing

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Cruise ship giants Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings announced plans to join forces in July to develop a new industry standard for sailing in the wake of coronavirus. Now, the cruise firms are set to unveil a list pf 74 best practises ahead of the end of the current CDC no-sail ban.

The Healthy Sail Panel, comprised of cruise and health experts, has submitted its recommendations to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

If the practices are deemed good enough by the governing health body, cruises could resume in the US from October.

“We understand our responsibility to act aggressively to protect the health and safety of our guests and crew, as well as the communities where we sail, and we asked the panel to help us learn how to best live up to that responsibility,” Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group Richard D. Fain said in a statement.

“We were inspired by the depth of the panel’s work and their determination to help us establish the strongest protocols in the travel industry.”

The proposal is made up of more than 65 pages and lists a series of areas of importance for cruises.

Scientists and experts in the panel have concluded in the report that COVID-19 can be controlled on a ship.

Key areas highlighted in the new plan include:

  • Testing, screening and exposure reduction
  • Sanitation and ventilation
  • Response, contingency planning and execution
  • Destination and excursion planning
  • Mitigating risks for crew members

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The experts have also come up with a number of methods to address specific safety concerns.

These include “taking aggressive measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from entering a ship through robust education, screening and testing of both crew and passengers before embarkation” and “Reducing transmission via air management strategies and enhanced sanitation practices”.

Other action plans include contingencies for onboard treatment, isolation and evacuation should a case of coronavirus be confirmed onboard.

It is also likely that onshore excursions will be closely controlled, and protection for staff and crew will be heightened.

The Healthy Sail Panel’s recommendations are robust and comprehensive, and they reflect the intense focus the panellists brought to their work,” President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Frank Del Rio said.

“We know that both authorities around the globe and consumers expect cruise lines to provide the safest, healthiest vacations we can, and this work demonstrates our commitment to doing just that.”

Like most cruise lines, both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have suffered huge financial losses since the outbreak of the pandemic.

At the time of writing, both cruise operators have outlined plans to restart sailing from November 1.

Speaking at the Miami-Dade County Tourism and Ports Committee meeting on September 10 Mr Del Rio made a plea to regulators to allow sailing to return as soon as feasibly possible.

“The cruise industry is close to devastation. … We’ve got to get back to work,” he said.

The new Healthy Sail Panel is being described as a major “milestone” for the industry.

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