Norwegian Cruise Line will place a public health officer on all of its ships and upgrade onboard medical centers with COVID-19 testing kits and medications as part of new health protocols revealed on its website.
Norwegian, which has already announced plans for a phased return to cruising on August 1, if the CDC has lifted its no-sail order by then, said the public health officer would be responsible for the oversight of all sanitation and outbreak prevention initiatives. Additionally, they will monitor the day-to-day cleanliness of all public areas and accommodation, maintaining compliance with the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program, the company said.
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Each ship will have dedicated isolation cabins should the need arise and onboard medical centers will be equipped with rapid diagnostic testing for COVID-19, increased inventory of medical oxygen equipment and medications to treat COVID-19.
The protocol will also include enhanced pre-embarkation screening for both passengers and crew and constant monitoring and touchless temperature checks throughout the voyage.
All air filters throughout the entire Norwegian fleet will be replaced with medical grade H13 HEPA air filters that remove 99.95% of airborne pathogens 0.1 microns or larger – COVID-19 is 0.125 microns
In addition, Norwegian said it would be introducing increased sanitation measures that will feature continuous disinfection of public areas and high-traffic touchpoints and increased frequency of disinfection of all staterooms, suites and public areas.
Buffets and beverage stations will be full service and guests will be “strongly encouraged to engage in frequent handwashing” and hand sanitizer will be prominently placed and easily accessible throughout the ship.
In order to enable social distancing, Norwegian said that guest capacity on board will be reduced, although it has not specified by how much. It said that reducing capacity in all public areas throughout the voyage.
In addition to Norwegian Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings operates Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. The three brands have a combined fleet of 28 ships and almost 60,000 berths.
Earlier this month, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio said that in order to return to cruising, the first job would be to convince the CDC to lift its no-sale order.
“Can’t go very far without that,” said Del Rio. “And so, we have to introduce a series, what I would refer to as a robust and comprehensive series of protocols that gives the CDC confidence that the environment onboard a cruise ship is healthy.”
Next on the menu, Del Rio said, would be to communicate whatever protocols are decided upon to the traveling public and to “give them the same confidence that we were able to instill in the CDC.”
That, he said, would take time. “This is not an exercise of optics. This is not an exercise of let’s get away with the minimum required. I want to do everything humanly possible within the bounds of what technology offers us today to be able to look my own family in the eye and say ‘You are safe to go on board our cruise ships.’”
Now that those protocols have been announced, the question is will the CDC lift its no-sail order when it expires on July 24, and if it does, will the traveling public have confidence in Norwegian’s measures.