Despite competing for cruisers out at sea, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line are teaming up to help throw their industry a life preserver during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Announced this morning, and first reported by The Washington Post, the cruise lines are leading the creation of a health and safety panel aimed at helping the cruising industry recover and set new cleanliness standards as it looks to resume voyages following the industrywide pause that began in March.
“We compete for the vacationing consumer’s business every day, but we never compete on health and safety standards,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which also operates Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. “While the cruise industry has always had rigorous health standards, the unique challenges posed by Covid-19 provide an opportunity to raise the bar even higher.”
The Healthy Sail Panel will be co-chaired by former Food and Drug Administration commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb and former Utah Gov. Michael Leavitt, who also served as the secretary of Health and Human Services from 2005 to 2009. The panel has already been convening for a month and is expected to deliver its recommendations by the end of August, according to the announcement.
“We’re on a problem-solving mission to help the cruise industry figure out how to adapt to a new risk environment we have never seen before,” said Leavitt in a Zoom call with Royal Caribbean chairman and CEO Richard Fain.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s No Sail Order for the cruise industry is expected to lift July 24, but already the industry’s trade group, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), has announced that no ship would sail from North America until Sept. 15. Carnival, the world’s largest cruise brand, had originally planned to resume sailing Aug. 1, but has since pushed back that date until at least Sept. 30.
“Health and safety are the highest priority for all CLIA cruise line members, as demonstrated by this initiative on the part of two of our largest members,” said Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of CLIA. “We commend this and parallel efforts of all of our members, large and small, who are working tirelessly to develop appropriate protocols based on input from health authorities and medical experts in the U.S. and abroad.”
Expert-led panels on health and sanitization have sprung up across the tourism industry, as brands recovering from cratered travel demand are tasked with enticing customers to get out of their homes despite the ongoing pandemic. So far, Clorox has teamed with United Airlines, and Lysol is working with Hilton to offer guidance on updated cleaning protocols.
Richard Branson’s Virgin Voyages, which hasn’t had its inaugural sail yet, was one of the first cruise brands to announce its policies for cruising in the time of Covid-19, going as far as limiting ship capacity for its first sail in October. Its panel, called the Voyage Well Expert Advisory, will also be recommending “rapid and effective” testing before embarking, preboarding health checks and thermal cameras at terminals to monitor travelers’ temperatures.
When asked back in June, Carnival CEO and president Arnold Donald said his company’s policies were “still evolving.”