Cruise resumption in Germany by Royal Caribbean Group partner line TUI Cruises is a positive sign for the cruise industry and a step toward the resumption of cruising in North America, Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain said in a webinar for travel advisors, July 23.
Discussing the joint blue-ribbon ‘Healthy Sail Panel’ set up together with Norwegian Cruise Lines just over a month ago, Fain gave Germany as an example of cruise lines can resume sailing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“The prevalence of the disease in Germany is now so low and the protocols so developed that we and the authorities consider it safe to proceed,” Fain said as TUI prepared to set sail Friday, July 24 for the first time since the shutdown.
“It’s a small start,” said Fain, “but it’s an important one. Just as daffodils that are important, [as] a sign of spring. I hope this small start in Germany bodes well for our future resumption. It won’t be immediate, but it is coming. These four months have been the longest four months any of us can remember, even if it means that we’re four months closer to getting to the other side of this terrible time. When you’re in the middle like we are, it can feel like the troubles are never going to end. But they do.”
Royal Caribbean has currently suspended sailing through September 15 – the move was made prior to the CDC extension of its No Sail Order through September 31 – and Fain said Royal Caribbean would not “restart until we and the authorities are satisfied that we can do so with all the appropriate protocols in place.”
Cruise resumption for Cruise ships present special challenges
Fain said he was excited by the work and the passion shown by the members of the panel, adding that co-chairs, former Health Secretary Michael Levitt and former FDA chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb, had repeatedly reminded him that while “a cruise ship has special challenges. It also has special opportunities.”
“We’ve already seen that this is an area where some special, innovative ideas can make a big difference. Our objective is not only to meet the minimum safety requirements, but to actually make the ship safer than the communities where our guests come from,” Fain said.
But while Fain struck a positive tone on the work of the panel, he launched what can only be described as an unprecedented attack on the handling of the crisis by the US administration.
“Unfortunately, the situation in the US continues to be confusing and disturbing…The picture is discouraging and people are appropriately getting increasingly worried and frustrated,” Fain said. “Contrast that with the news from Europe and Asia. There, the news has been almost exclusively positive. Businesses are opening up quickly and efficiently. Restrictions on normal life are rapidly falling away and life is returning towards normalcy. There are flare ups there, too, but they seem to be more quickly identified and controlled.
“People are increasingly confident that life will gradually return to normal. As an American, this is incredibly embarrassing. There is simply no excuse for the United States to do worse than almost all the other developed countries in the world. And yet, chart after chart shows that’s just what’s happening.”
Fain was no less critical of those who refuse to wear facemasks, which he acknowledged were “a royal pain to wear.”
“Our shortcoming is not in our knowledge. It’s in what we do with that knowledge and unfortunately, what some people refuse to do,” Fain said. “In America, we pride ourselves on our individualism. But taken too far, individualism can begin to look a lot like selfishness.”