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Healthy Return to Cruising is Possible, Panel of Medical Experts Concludes
Cozumel Port

Healthy Return to Cruising is Possible, Panel of Medical Experts Concludes

Healthy Return to Cruising is Possible, Panel of Medical Experts Concludes
Cozumel Port

September 22, 2020

Adam Coulter
UK Managing Editor
By Adam Coulter
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We want to hear from you. Please take our short survey on your reaction to the recommendations from the Healthy Sail Panel, outlined below.

(9:30 a.m. EDT) -- A panel of leading scientists and medical experts convened by two of the world's biggest cruise companies -- Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings -- has concluded that the public health risk associated with the pandemic can be controlled on a ship.
The Healthy Sail Panel submitted its recommendations -- including 74 detailed best practices -- today to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in response to a CDC request for public comment.
The CDC, which is due to make a decision on the resumption of cruising from U.S. ports this week, will use the report to inform future public health guidance and preventative measures relating to travel on cruise ships. Currently, the CDC sail order is in force until September 30.
"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," Chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group Richard D. Fain said in a statement.
"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 work from the panel represents a rare collaboration between two otherwise competing cruise lines, who united behind an effort to ensure cruising remained safe and healthy and that ships could return to sailing.
"The Healthy Sail Panel's recommendations are robust and comprehensive, and they reflect the intense focus the panelists brought to their work," President and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. Frank Del Rio said.
"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."
Both companies have lost billions of dollars since the pandemic forced a pause in cruise ship operations worldwide.
And in an impassioned plea before the Miami-Dade County Tourism and Ports Committee meeting September 10, Del Rio said: "The cruise industry is close to devastation. … We've got to get back to work."
Fain and Del Rio said each company will 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 -- an important milestone in the process of resuming sailing around the world.
The panel's work is open sourced for others to incorporate in their protocols as well. In fact, later Monday, the Cruise Lines International Association announced it had sent over its own list of protocols -- many similar to what the Healthy Sail Panel had recommended -- to CDC for consideration
The Healthy Sail Panel comprises globally recognized experts in medical practice and research, public health, infectious diseases, biosecurity, hospitality and maritime operations that have applied the best available public health, science and engineering insights to their recommendations.
It is chaired by Governor and former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
"I think one of the things that was very interesting was the very methodical approach to they took the risk and the concept of layered risk of layered, steps to protect against the risk," Fain told Cruise Critic. "So it's not relying on a silver bullet, but it's a series of things which complement each other."
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 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 Gottlieb said. "Taken as a comprehensive approach, we believe the panel's robust public health recommendations will help inform strategies for a safe resumption of sailing."
The Healthy Sail Panel identified five areas of focus every cruise operator should address to improve health and safety for passengers and crew, and to reduce the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships:
  1. Testing, screening and exposure reduction
  1. Sanitation and ventilation
  1. Response, contingency planning and execution
  1. Destination and excursion planning
  1. 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 passengers before 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.
"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," Leavitt said.
"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."
Cruise lines in Europe are not governed by the CDC and three big lines -- Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises and TUI Cruises -- have already resumed sailings, so far with no incidents of COVID-19 onboard.
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