During a webinar with Richard Fain, Chairman of the Board for the Royal Caribbean Group, he indicated some additional insights and overview of these recommendations. Below is a summary so that you will know what to expect as cruising resumes.
The team recognized that risk can never be fully eliminated, however, with appropriate measures in place it can be substantially reduced along with additional layers of protection interconnected to provide additional risk mitigation. The Panel recognized that the Covid -19 pandemic is ever-changing. Some the recommendations will need to continue to be in place while others may be modified over time.
Areas of Focus:
1. Testing, Screening & Exposure
Crew will be tested prior to leaving their homes, potential test at pier, quarantine for 7 days onboard the ship and then be tested again with periodic testing of crew.
All guests, regardless of how they are arriving, should be tested between 5 days and 24 hours before boarding. Very interestingly, Mr. Fain indicated that the cruise line will receive the test results directly electronically.
At embarkation, everyone will undergo health screenings followed by daily temperature checks. Guests will need to formally agree to follow safety policies and health protocols. Compliance with established protocols will be critical to ensure a safe and enjoyable sailing experience for all.
Masks will be required when cruises first start sailing again. Guests will be self- reporting symptoms onboard. When cruises first resume, they should remove self-service buffets. Some recreational activities will need to change venues or be postponed at the start. When cruising returns, there will be reduced capacity and social distancing requirements. The percentage will be a balancing act and change over time based on test sailings, incremental changes and constant improvement. Mr. Fain indicated that there were no magical numbers. Everything will be change incrementally, while including auditing as part of the process.
2. Sanitation & Ventilation
Enhancements will be made to sanitation protocols on ships, terminals, and operated destinations. Recommendations to enhance ventilation systems were also made. Focus was on hand sanitizer stations and hand washing to reduce transmission.
3. Response, Contingency Planning & Execution
Recommendations were made for additional medical personnel, equipment and increased capacity of onboard medical facilities. The focus here is on catching it early. Contact Tracing. Designation of certain cabins for isolation and quarantine spaces. Guidelines for debarking the ship if sick.
4. Destination & Excursion Planning
Sailing to various destinations to do so in a way to reduce risk. They will start out as an extension of the bubble and expand in better ways. In the beginning, itineraries should be as simple as possible, using private destinations where cruise lines can have better control over shore excursions. Initially start with shorter sailings. Cruise lines are working with governments around the world and local port areas. In the beginning, guests will only be allowed to get off the ship via cruise line excursions. Cruise operators should offer inside excursions only if social distancing, use of masks can be implemented.
5. Mitigating Risks for Crew Members
Extensive testing of Crew and education on protocols. Over time, there will be changes made while trying to keep the cruise experience that guests have enjoyed.
In Summary, the above recommendations are viewed as the Northstar. Operational protocols will be issued relatively soon. Recommended were dockside simulations with employees followed by short test cruises with employees to nowhere and then to a single destination. Independent observers would be present to discuss any further modifications or corrective actions
While no specific return date has been established, Mr. Fain indicated that there is a tremendous eagerness to get back into operation in a healthy and safe way. Stay tuned for updates.
As your Travel Advisors, we are constantly reading, participating in webinars and virtual meetings to stay up to date on the fluid changes. When you are ready to make plans, reach out to our Crew. Every member of our Crew is a professional agent that each has individually over a decade of experience in the travel industry and is equipped with all of the knowledge and tools to assist with your dream vacation. Being a Full-Service Agency, we can plan all of the details so that all you have to do is enjoy your trip!