Royal Caribbean intends to make its cruise ships into a COVID-19 free bubble, the Group’s CEO Richard Fain said in his latest video message to travel advisers on Monday.
Fain added that the multilayer protocols developed by Royal Caribbean’s joint Health Sail Panel along with Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings actually presented to passengers “less risk of transmission than in their home communities on land.”
He said the panel, which submitted its recommendations to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered a layered approach of several different operating protocols, which, most importantly, includes 100% testing of everyone who enters the ships, guests, and crew.
Fain noted that the entire cruise industry was adopting 100% testing – something that has already worked successfully in Italy, Germany and Greece – and added, in what was perhaps a veiled criticism oof the CDC “no other section of the travel industry does 100% testing. In fact, no other industry in the world requires 100% testing. While cruises continue to be prohibited, airlines are able to fly.
Winds of change in the air for cruise industry
Fain said that despite all the terrible new of 2020, “right now, the winds of change are in the air.”
Science he said was making big advances in therapeutic s for COVID-19, but that the really big news is that the capacity for testing has grown exponentially, and more than a million tests are now performed in the U.S in a single day.
However, he added, what is even more remarkable is that development of new tests which are bringing down costs and speeding up diagnosis times.
“The advances are so significant that I believe in the near term, we will see more benefit from testing than we will from vaccines in the near term,” he said.
“I’m not minimizing the value of vaccines, he continued. “Vaccines are the ultimate weapon against this virus and their development has been nothing short of amazing, but I do think it’s likely that a vaccine will be available before the end of the year, but getting enough for widespread distribution is going to take probably until sometime in the spring. On the other hand, faster, cheaper, and widespread testing will be much more impactful, much sooner. Widespread testing enables contact tracing. And it’s the one, two punch of testing and contact tracing that is so effective in limiting the community spread of the disease.”
Cruise industry line of communications with White House remain open
Fain noted that cruise industry executives had been scheduled to meet last week with the CDC officials and members of the White House COVID-19 task force in order to discuss protocols for a resumption of cruising, but the meeting was cancelled after President Donald Trump and other White House officials tested positive for COVID-19. However, Fain said, “the lines of communication remain open and we expect the dialogue to continue productively and we are working on it.”
Royal Caribbean: Test sailings, short cruises to resume first
Fain said Royal Caribbean hoped to soon have the opportunity to put its plans to the test, but cautioned that things would not “happen overnight.”
“It is going to take time for this process to work through. And we propose to start slowly by training our crew and embarking on a series of non-revenue test sailings, where we can rehearse. And we can validate the new protocols,” Fain said.
“The process will be carefully evaluated by independent outside observers, and then only on a ship or toward first, we hope to start sailing again, they’ll be short cruises at first with limited destinations and controlled shore excursions. But as we learn, and as the science continues to improve, we will expand then your business and ours can begin to retain regain some semblance of normalcy. We’ve told you from the start that we understand the importance of getting this right. We’ve told you that we won’t rush.”