The “Healthy Sail Panel” — a team of cross-disciplinary experts assembled by Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings – has concluded cruising can be safe in the current health environment with a robust set of science-backed protocols.
The panel made up of specialists in public health, infectious diseases, biosecurity, hospitality and maritime operations has proposed more than 70 recommendations across five key areas: testing, screening and exposure reduction; sanitation and ventilation; response, contingency planning and execution; destination and excursion planning; and mitigating risks for crew members.
The Healthy Sail Panel submitted its recommendations today to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in response to a CDC request for public comment that will be used to inform future public health guidance and preventative measures relating to travel on cruise ships. The panel was formed in June by Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings
.The panel’s 65-plus-page report includes 74 detailed best practices to protect the public health and safety of guests, crew and the communities where cruise ships call.
Recommendations include testing, the use of face coverings, and enhanced sanitation procedures on ships and in terminals. The panel is chaired by Governor Mike Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Preboard testing single most important step
Preboard testing for COVID-19 infection for guests, crew, and employees at private, cruise line-owned and operated destinations is the single most important step that can be taken to prevent disease introduction on board, the panel said, recommending universal testing prior to boarding as cruise ships return to service.
The panel recommends a minimum of one and preferably two preboard negative COVID-19 test results for guests and a minimum of two preboard and one post-quarantine negative COVID-19 test results for crew members, presuming feasibility of rapid testing at the pier.
The panel recommends that all crew should be tested for COVID-19 between 5 days and 24 hours prior to leaving their home location to join the ship and receive a negative test result, quarantine for seven days on board the ship upon arrival, and take a test at the end of that seven day period and receive a negative result, before beginning their duties.
Additionally, the panel said, if feasible based on cost and available technology, cruise operators should consider administering an additional rapid test and requiring a negative result shortly prior to boarding.
Robust recommendations for a safe return to sailing
“The Healthy Sail Panel spent the last four months studying how to better protect the health and safety of guests and crew aboard cruise ships,” said Dr. Gottlieb. “Taken as a comprehensive approach, we believe the panel’s robust public health recommendations will help inform strategies for a safe resumption of sailing.”
Gov. Leavitt said: “This panel undertook an ambitious, cross-disciplinary, public health examination to develop standards and guidelines that create the highest level of safety in the complex environment of a cruise ship. We studied the industry’s experiences combating the pandemic – and we then incorporated the many lessons learned and advances made by medicine and science over the past six months. The panel’s recommendations are grounded in the best scientific and medical information available and are intended to meaningfully mitigate public health risks to those who sail.”
“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,” said Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group. “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 Healthy Sail Panel’s recommendations are robust and comprehensive, and they reflect the intense focus the panelists brought to their work,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
Providing the safest, healthiest vacations we plan
“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.”
Fain and Del Rio said each company would use the panel’s recommendations to inform the development of new, detailed operating protocols, which will be submitted to the CDC and other authorities around the globe for review and approval.
The panel’s work is open sourced to allow other cruise operators to incorporate its recommendations in their protocols.
Key points from Healthy Sail Panel recommendations
The Healthy Sail Panel identified five areas of focus every cruise operator should address to improve health and safety for guests and crew, and reduce the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships:
- Testing, Screening and Exposure Reduction
- Sanitation and Ventilation
- Response, Contingency Planning and Execution
- Destination and Excursion Planning
- Mitigating Risks for Crew Members
In each category, the Healthy Sail Panel created practical and actionable recommendations to address specific safety concerns. Among the recommendations are key strategies such as:
- Taking aggressive measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from entering a ship through robust education, screening and testing of both crew and guests prior to embarkation
- Reducing transmission via air management strategies and enhanced sanitation practices
- Implementing detailed plans to address positive infection on board, including contingencies for onboard treatment, isolation and rapid evacuation and repatriation
- Closely controlling shore excursions
- Enhanced protection for crew members