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Royal Caribbean Group CEO shares hopeful message for end of cruise industry shutdown in the U.S.

In:
12Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain compared the year-long shutdown of cruises to a basketball game, where the most activity occurs at the end of the game.

In a new video update, Mr. Fain talked about the major milestones happening right now, and how it all correlates to getting cruise ships back into service.

"Like the frenetic last minutes of that basketball game, and I think that there are signs that we are approaching the end," Fain said in his remarks.  "We all want the same thing, safe and healthy cruising."

Included in his comments was mention of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recent update to its Framework for Conditional Sail Order (CSO), which Mr. Fain characterized as, "tougher restrictions on cruising out of U.S. ports."

He talked about the fact the CDC said they see a way to restart in the U.S. as early as July, which he added Royal Caribbean Group is "eager to work with them towards that goal."

"My fondest desire is that we can follow President Biden's target of July 4th as a major reopening milestone. The evidence is that we can do it. Now is our opportunity to work together towards that common goal."

"We look forward to such a constructive dialogue with the CDC and others to make that success even broader."

Positive signs happening now

Richard Fain sees a lot of key milestones happening now that point to the fact things are moving in the right direction.

First, he sees the fact almost 45% of eligible Americans have already received at least their first dose of the vaccine is exciting.

Second, the cruises Royal Caribbean Group has been able to carry out abroad has provided a lot of valuable data for crafting a safe way to offer cruises going forward.

"We're able to see what actually happens and draw conclusions based on empirical evidence rather than random hypotheses. And that empirical evidence is overwhelmingly positive."

Third, combination of widespread testing and effective contact tracing gives Mr. Fain the confidence that they can, "reduce the risk of an outbreak on a ship to levels below that on land."

Fourth, people are frustrated with the restrictions of life right now due to the virus.

SilverSea will require all cruise ship passengers to be fully vaccinated

In:
12Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Another cruise line relying on the Healthy Sail Panel will require all of its passengers to be fully vaccinated.

SilverSea, a luxury cruise line part of the Royal Caribbean Group, announced it will require all guests and passengers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

An update on its website notes the new requirement, "All embarking crew and guests must have been fully vaccinated prior to sail date in order to board our ships. This requirement may differ according to region and country obligations."

SilverSea is now the second cruise line with ties to the Healthy Sail Panel that plans on allowing only fully vaccinated guests, following Norwegian Cruise Line's proposal to the CDC to do the same last week.

The Healthy Sail Panel is an independent group of scientists and public health experts, which is a joint venture of the Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

Royal Caribbean International has not proposed to require all guests be fully vaccinated on its ships.  In fact, Royal Caribbean has only committed itself thus far to requiring the vaccine for adults on select ships restarting sailings this summer.  Children can sail with a negative Covid test.

Read moreEverything we know about if Royal Caribbean will require a vaccine

SilverSea has other protocols listed that are similar to Royal Caribbean's plans, including:

  • Pre-embarkation health screening
  • COVID-19 test prior to boarding
  • Potential reduced capacity during first months returning to service
  • Shore excursions only booked through the cruise line
  • Masks in all indoor public areas
    • Masks will not be required while seated in restaurants, at tables in bars, and in outdoor areas in which physical distancing can be maintained

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has banned cruise ships from sailing from the United States since March 2020 due to operating a cruise ship during the global health crisis.

Cruise lines have been doing just about anything they can in order to get permission to sail again from U.S. waters. Proposals like NCL and SilverSea are seen by some as a move to do everything they can to cater to the CDC's concerns.

On April 3, the CDC released a small update to its recommendations for cruise lines that want to restart operations in U.S. waters, but there was not much hope in the update that cruises sailing again was coming soon.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: April 11, 2021

In:
11Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Spring is here and it is also Sunday, which means we are celebrating warm(er) temperatures and Royal Caribbean news from this week!

The state of Florida on Thursday sued the federal government in order to get cruise ships started up again.

Florida Governor Ron Desantis announced on Thursday the state is filing a lawsuit against the federal government, United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CDC, demanding cruise ships be reopened immediately.

The CDC has been blocking most cruise vessels from sailing in U.S. waters since the coronavirus outbreak was declared a pandemic in March of 2020, citing COVID-19-related risks.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 401st episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, featuring a listener's recent cruise on Allure of the Seas.

James shares his cruise story from Liberty of the Seas, where he tried out a new ship after finding a great deal.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

New RCB Video: 10 mistakes cruisers make & how to fix them!

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — 10 mistakes cruisers make & how to fix them! — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Royal Caribbean will start West Coast cruises earlier than planned, beginning in November 2021

Royal Caribbean will start its West Coast cruises earlier than expected.

Instead of beginning cruises from Los Angeles, California in June 2022, Royal Caribbean has moved up the start date to November 2021.

Navigator of the Seas will operate short three- and four-night sailings calling on Ensenada, Mexico, and Catalina Island. There will also be several five-night sailings that will also include a stop in Cabo San Lucas, and select weeklong voyages will include an overnight stay.

Photos: Royal Caribbean cruise ships help St. Vincent after volcano eruption

In:
11Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean was among the first companies to step up and assist the people of St. Vincent after a volcano erupted on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent.

Serenade of the Seas was dispatched to assist residents of the island, and we have our first look at the ship's efforts to help.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley shared photos of Serenade in St. Vincent following the eruption Friday of La Soufrière.

This is the first time La Soufrière has erupted since 1979, which as covered homes and the countryside in ash, along with a strong sulfur smell.

Mr. Bayley praised the efforts of his crew in assisting, "Love and huge respect to our crew who, as always, come together in unimaginable ways. Over the next few days, they’ll be welcoming guests, preparing provisions, and providing medical attention."

"I am so proud of our team and all the teams behind the scenes from Royal, Celebrity, and Carnival Cruises working day and night to make sure we assist the people of St.Vincent in any way we can."

In addition to Serenade of the Seas, Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Reflection is also helping out from the Royal Caribbean Group.

Carnival Cruise Line sent Carnival Legend and Carnival Paradise to assist in the efforts.

The cruise ships are ready to take evacuees to nearby islands.

Serenade of the Seas will not be able to handle as many evacuees as normal due to the fact the ship is minimally staffed due to the global health crisis.

Royal Caribbean also confirmed it is evacuating anyone, not just vaccinated people. 

Mr. Bayley confirmed they would evacuate all people that can pass a Covid test, "We have stated that all passengers to be evacuated will need a negative Covid test."

As a result of the cruise industry being shutdown, the ship is is at "minimum manning", meaning there is just enough crew to keep the ship functional.

The Associated Press reports about 16,000 people have had to flee their ash-covered communities after the volcano erupted.

Photos taken by The Curious Lens of Martina from Argentina

Officials are trying to figure out the best way to collect and dispose of the ash, which covered an airport runway near the capital of Kingstown, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) south, and fell as far away as Barbados, about 120 miles (190 kilometers) to the east.

Here is how to easily tell your Congressperson you want the CDC to let cruise ships sail

In:
10Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean wants your support in telling the U.S. government it is time to open cruises back up.

The cruise industry as a whole is united in their effort to get approval for cruise ships to sail again, and a major part of their plan is rallying public support.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) holds the reigns on cruises being able to sail, Federal government influence still plays a major role.

To that end, Royal Caribbean is asking all past and future cruisers to contact their U.S. policymakers to get the Conditional Sail Order (CSO) removed to resume along with other travel and hospitality industries. 

Getting the word out about contacting policymakers is so important to Royal Caribbean, they have taken to social media and directly contacting cruisers via email to spread the word.

On the Royal Caribbean Group website, the call to action for all Americans to contact their senators and representatives is spelled out, "We ask you to please join the Group and cruise-related industries in this crucial campaign to move our industry forward."

"In concert with Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Royal Caribbean Group is petitioning the CDC and U.S. policymakers to remove the Conditional Sail Order and allow cruising to resume along with other travel and hospitality industries. CLIA has launched a “Ready Set Sail” campaign to raise our collective voice."

Why should cruise ships be able to sail?

Cruise lines need your support to get going again, and it is based on a few important factors.

First and foremost, the cruise industry has adopted sweeping new health protocols that are unparalleled in the travel industry. Lead by an independent group of scientists and public health experts, the Healthy Sail Panel has provided the industry with clear ways to offer cruises in a responsible and low risk manner during the current health crisis.

Cruise ships will employ testing for every passenger and crew member, new ways of circulating air and filtration, enhanced cleanliness onboard, and contact tracing.

No other form of leisure travel employs as sophisticated or extensive protocols.

Proving this science works, more than 400,000 healthy guests have sailed on cruise ships outside the U.S., all made possible by protocols developed over months of collaboration with top experts including the Healthy Sail Panel.

In addition, every other sector of travel has been able to restart operations.

While cruise ships remain completely shut down, other forms of travel such as airplanes, casinos, theme parks, and hotels are operating without hindrance by the federal government.  

If the argument is made cruise ships should not be able to sail because it is unsafe during the health crisis, then the same logic should be applied to other forms of leisure travel.  Since that is not happening, this is an unfair and irresponsible approach to single out one sector of travel while ignoring the rest.

Lastly, cruise ships should be able to sail again because the CDC has failed to live up to its end of its agreement with the industry.

Cruise lines and the CDC agreed to work on a new phased approach to allowing cruises to sail again under the Conditional Sail Order, but the CDC has provided little tangible updates or progress since the agreement went into effect in October 2020.

How you can help

In order to make your voice heard, Royal Caribbean has directed its supporters to take one of these easy actions.

The best thing you can do is contact your congressperson by visiting the CLIA Action Center to use their form to easily contact your senators and representatives.

Second, you can share your support on social media with videos and call-to-action materials.

Social media links

Shareable images

Right click and save these images so you can share on social media

U.S. Transportation Secretary: Cruises could restart by midsummer

In:
09Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

The highest ranking federal official has provided a ray of hope for cruises restarting sometime soon.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg spoke on the subject of cruises restarting while at a White House briefing on Friday.

According to Mr. Buttigieg, cruise ships could be "sailing by midsummer," provided they can meet safety guidelines in time.

Questions on a variety of transportation questions were taken by Mr. Buttigieg, where he expressed an interest in getting ships sailing again.

"I certainty care a lot about seeing the cruise sector thrive. I know that the CDC is hopeful that a lot of these operators will be in a position to be sailing by mid-summer"

"We want to do this as soon as we responsibly can but we also have to make sure that it's safe."

In order to get there, he conceded that cruise lines need to pass through "gates" for ships "to get through" before they can get federal approval. 

He did not specify which regulations that were, but it is likely a reference to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's (CDC) Framework for Conditional Sail Order (CSO).

In recent weeks, the cruise industry has criticized the CSO as being overly complicated, outdated, and unnecessary.

Instead, cruise lines have proposed dropping the CSO completely and allowing cruise ships to sail under the submitted extensive new health protocols.

One reporter asked Mr. Buttigieg about the double standard cruise lines face that airlines do not, and his response was, "airlines have one safety profile; cruise ships have another."

"I’m the secretary of Transportation. I can’t wait for us all to be on the move as much as possible in a safe and responsible way, but it’s gotta be safe and responsible."

In the same briefing, a reporter asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked about when cruise ships would take to the waters again.

"We certainly recognize the importance of the cruise ship industry to the Alaska economy," Psaki said.

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line CEOs call for cruises to be allowed to sail

In:
09Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

The cruise industry is an all-out offensive to do what they can to get the word out there for cruise ships to be able to sail again.

Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings (NCLH) CEOs both took to television interviews in the last couple of days to highlight the different rules the cruise industry faces compared to other forms of travel.

Over the last few weeks, the cruise industry has gone on the offensive to demonstrate to the public the lengths the cruise lines are going to keep everyone safe on a ship while the proposals falling on deaf ears.

NCLH CEO Frank Del Rio spoke on CNN and talked about how cruise lines simply wanted to be treated fairly, "There are many, if not all, travel, tourism and hospitality venues that are open throughout the country, that never shut down or certainly open today."

"The CDC is is not cooperating up to now. And so I think it's time that the cruise industry, the people, understand the plight that we're under."

"Why should we be different?"

Mr. Del Rio pointed out NCLH's proposal to U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to require every person on its ships be vaccinated so that its ships can cruise by July, but Del Rio says they have heard nothing back.

Their plan calls for 100% vaccination of guests and crew onboard, as well as strict health and safety protocols for all sailing sailing through October 31, 2021.

"I challenge you to tell me another venue on Earth where you can be guaranteed that everyone inside that venue, whether it's a grocery store or an office building, a school, a resort, a casino, a hotel, everyone is vaccinated, protected. And on top of that, you layer in this multi pronged seventy four protocols developed by the best scientific minds in America. What could possibly be safer than that?"

Mr. Del Rio's comments come just a day after Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke on CBS about his cruise line's preparations to sail again.

"All the cruise lines are working towards the best protocols that includes new ways of circulating air and filtration, includes cleanliness, ways to clean areas. It includes testing," Fain said.

Mr. Fain points to the extensive safety protocols cruise ships are proposing as being superior to anywhere else on land, "Nobody can guarantee anybody is safe from COVID anywhere in America or anywhere else. Actually, the irony is, if you go on a ship, you're going to reduce your risk of coming down with the virus."

The cruise industry offensive against the CDC's inaction has seen strong and stronger rhetoric following months in which executives avoided discussing the CDC's approach.

Read more5 ways the CDC proves it doesn't understand cruise ships

After five months of no updates, and even a token update last week with no tangible changes, the industry has been turning up the heat.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) called on the U.S. government to once again lift the Conditional Sail Order (CSO), rather than continue with the CDC's plan.

Moreover, CLIA is imploring everyone in the cruise industry, as well as cruise fans) to tell Congress cruise ships deserve to sail.

CLIA has set up a form that anyone can use to contact their representatives at http://bit.ly/ReadytoSail

Royal Caribbean sent an email to past cruisers on Friday asking for their support, "If you’re ready to see cruising return, we urge you to call, email and tweet your Senators and U.S. Representatives in support of lifting the CDC’s Conditional Sail Order (CSO) and allowing healthy cruising to resume from the U.S. by the beginning of July 2021."

Royal Caribbean is working to get more flight options to the Bahamas

In:
09Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Royal Caribbean will restart cruises this summer from The Bahamas, and is working on making getting to and from Nassau easier.

Flights to Nassau are not necessarily as plentiful as some would like, and Royal Caribbean is working to secure "bulk rate sales of seats" for cruise passengers.

The Nassau Guardian Business is reporting Bahamasair Chairman Tommy Turnquest confirmed his airline and Royal Caribbean are working together.

"I can tell you that Bahamasair is working with Royal Caribbean on Saturday flights. We’re going to have two flights out of Miami, one flight out of Fort Lauderdale and one flight out of Orlando to coincide with when the ship will arrive at 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning and leave 9 o’clock that night."

"We have begun negotiations with them and we’re very pleased with how that’s going. We will provide them with some airlift. We think it’s an opportunity to get out of the doldrums and we are very optimistic about that."

While cruises from the United States remain at a standstill due to regulation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), places like the Bahamas are now homeports.  However, the logistics for cruisers to reach this area is still somewhat difficult.

Read moreWhat you need to know about visiting Nassau on a cruise ship

Royal Caribbean sells guests airfare through its Air2Sea program, which is actually offering discounted rates to guests in order to spur sales.

When Royal Caribbean announced cruises from Nassau, they knew demand for flights would be strong and possibly even outpace supply.  So they worked with select airlines to not only secure seats but actually subsidize prices.

Royal Caribbean pushed back the departure time of Adventure of the Seas in order to provide guests more time to get to Nassau.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley told Bahamian media that he estimates almost 2,000 people could travel to/from Nassau's airport every weekend when cruises begin.

Doing some "back of the napkin math", Adventure of the Seas can accommodate about 3,300 passengers at double occupancy or 4,000 at maximum capacity.  This means "almost 2,000" suggests somewhere around 45% - 60% of ship capacity.

Royal Caribbean sends cruise ship to assist in volcano evacuations in St. Vincent

In:
08Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

An evacuation order has been ordered for the Caribbean island of St. Vincent, and Royal Caribbean has already sent a cruise ship to assist in evacuating residents.

St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalve issued an evacuation order after seismologists declared a "red alert" due to an impending eruption from La Soufrière.

Based on marine traffic websites, Royal Caribbean's Serenade of the Seas is headed to the island according to local officials.

Update: Royal Caribbean Group issued a statement confirming the support of Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises vessels.

Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises are sending ships to St. Vincent in the Caribbean to evacuate residents currently at risk from a potential eruption of the island’s La Soufriere volcano which has seen increasing activity in recent days.

Both cruise lines are working closely with St. Vincent authorities to assist residents most at risk. Royal Caribbean International’s Serenade of the Seas and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Reflection are on their way to the island nation and are expected to arrive later this evening to assist with evacuation efforts.

All precautions will be taken to protect the health and safety of the crew and passengers who board our ships.

According to a local Twitter account, the Serenade of the Seas will arrive to help with the evacuation tonight.

Carnival Cruise Line announced it was sending two of its ships to assist in efforts.

Carnival Cruise Line has agreed to send two ships to St. Vincent to support humanitarian efforts to evacuate residents who are under threat from the volcanic eruption of La Soufriere.  Carnival Paradise should arrive to St. Vincent by 11 a.m. local time on Friday, and Carnival Legend should arrive by approximately 2 p.m. on Friday. 

Each of Carnival's ships can handle up to 1,500 residents who will be transported to neighboring islands.

Experts became concerned about an eruption after monitoring stations reported long earthquakes that suggest fresh magma was trying to reach the surface. In addition, plumes of smoke can be seen emanating from the volcano.

La Soufrière’s most devastating eruption was in 1902 when about 1,600 people were killed.

Royal Caribbean has a long history of assisting Caribbean islands when natural disasters strike.

Whether hurricanes, earthquakes, or other calamities, Royal Caribbean has traditionally stepped up with humanitarian aid and assistance.

Most recently, the cruise line went to extraordinary lengths to assist the Bahamas following the devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian. Royal Caribbean brough relief supplies and 20,000 daily meals to Grand Bahama Island in just the first week.

Some of their ships also assisted with evacuations to other islands in The Bahamas.

Florida sues CDC to get cruise ships sailing again

In:
08Apr2021
By: Matt Hochberg

Florida is following through on its threat to sue the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in order to get cruise ships started up again.

Florida Governor Ron Desantis announced on Thursday the state is filing a lawsuit against the federal government, United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CDC, demanding cruise ships be reopened immediately.

"Today, I'm happy to announce that on behalf of the tens of thousands of other Floridians, whose livelihood depends on the viability of an open cruise industry, today Florida is fighting back. We're filing a lawsuit against the federal government and the CDC, demanding that all cruise ships be reopened immediately."

At a press conference in Miami, the Governor and Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody announced the new legal fight.

The lawsuit is an attempt to get the CDC to drop the Framework for Conditional Sail Order (CSO), which is not allowing cruise ships to sail despite airlines, theme parks, casinos, and rail to operate without any hindrance.

Ms. Moody elaborate who this lawsuit is directed against, "We have filed suit this morning just before meeting with you here today, against the administration, HHS and the CDC, demanding that the court find that this effective No Sail Order is unlawful and allow our cruises to resume safely."

Just a few weeks ago, Governor DeSantis threatened legal action at a press conference with every major cruise line CEO, but today that threat has become a reality.

Read moreWhy does the CDC regulate the cruise lines?

DeSantis criticized how long cruises have been shutdown without any end in sight, "I don't think you can just indefinitely shutter major, major businesses and cost all these jobs. So we want a way forward."

"We have people flying on airplanes, they're on buses, hotels, restaurants, theme parks, casinos, bars, you name it. But somehow the cruise is viewed as differently."

DeSantis pointed out to how effective the Covid-19 vaccine is, and believes that alone is proof enough to get cruises going again.

Read moreEverything we know about if Royal Caribbean will require a vaccine

Compounding the issue are Americans traveling abroad to cruise instead of sailing from Florida.

Ms. Moody is concerned that trend will continue if nothing is done, "If we do not do this, you will see cruises continue to move these cruises to other countries."

Governor DeSantis believes the CDC has no right to shutdown the cruise industry for this long, given the "very little evidence and very little data" provided by the agency.

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