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Florida Governor signs bill banning vaccine passports possibly affecting cruise ship restart

In:
03May2021

Will cruise ships scheduled to sail from Florida ports be forced to redeploy to other states because of new Florida law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis?

On Monday, Governor DeSantis signed SB-2006 that among other things, bans Covid-19 vaccine passports in the state.

The ban prohibits businesses, schools, and government agencies from requiring people to show documentation certifying COVID-19 vaccinations or post-infection recovery before gaining entry.

The bill takes effect on July 1, 2021.

This new law will replace the executive order he signed in mid-April that does the same thing in the interim.

The Governor is a strong proponent of cruise ships being able to restart, but also feels private businesses should not be able to require customers get a vaccine.

In a recent interview, he shared this sentiment, "I'm very supportive of getting our cruise lines back up and running.

"We think they should be able to sail. But we also don't think that they should be able to require your personal health information in that regard."

Royal Caribbean has not officially decided if it will require its cruise ship passengers to get a vaccine as a matter of fleet wide policy, although it is requiring the vaccine for select ships that will be restarting cruises outside the United States this summer.

Moreover, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced last week it would allow cruise ships to restart sailings sooner if they have at least 95% vaccinated cruise passengers.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley indicated it would be possible for some ships to start cruising under the vaccinated approach, while others could pursue restart under the Conditional Sail Order rules without a vaccine requirement.

Last week, Mr. Bayley spoke about these options, "There'll be really two pathways, one pathway for vaccinated crew and largely vaccinated guests that meet the threshold that they've defined. And that would mean that there wouldn't be a requirement for a simulated voyage etc, and there would be a different expectation on protocols and planning. So it's a faster route."

"And then for ships that wouldn't wouldn't meet that threshold for whatever reason, there would be a different timeline and a different set of protocols and requirements."

"So fundamentally that there's two pathways. It's not that simple, but that's a way of simplifying."

On March 1, 2021, Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain reitterated no decision has been made yet on if Royal Caribbean will require its guests to be vaccinated in order to cruise.

Mr. Fain is a major support of the vaccines, and believes they are the fastest and best method to get Covid-19 under control.

"Whether we will require vaccines of all of our guests on all of our ships hasn't been decided yet, but we are prepared to go where the science leads us."

Rival cruise line Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NCLH) believes by requiring vaccines of every single person onboard its ships initially, in addition to comprehensive protocols including universal COVID-19 testing, is the key to way to get its ships back into service faster with approval from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

U.S ports begin vaccinating cruise ship crew members

In:
01May2021

Two ports in the United States are helping get cruise ship crew members vaccinated to facilitate the cruise industry getting back to service faster.

On Friday, Port Canaveral became the first U.S. port to offer crew members a Covid-19 vaccine.

Port Canaveral's option to give crew members the vaccine came a day after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees approved an expansion to vaccine eligibility in Florida to include individuals who are in the state for purpose of providing good or services for the benefit of residents and visitors of Florida.

Port Canaveral Chief Executive Officer John Murray released a statement celebrating the start tof this new program, "We have been working closely with our cruise partners, the Florida Department of Health and our port community to come up with a plan and timeline of vaccinating cruise ship crews that could begin the process for a safe return to cruising."

"This expanded eligibility is significantly important for our cruise tourism business, and we’re proud of our efforts to help get this industry up and running."

It is not clear which ship was the first to receive the doses.

Up to 1,000 COVID-19 vaccination shots per day can be provided to vessel crew members, shoreside and waterside support personnel, which aligns with recommendations released this week by the federal Centers for Disease Control for a return to cruising in the U.S.

Port Canaveral officials consulted with the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and cruise line operators, as well as the CDC to develop its vaccination model to efficiently and expeditiously get vaccines disbursed to crew members and shoreside personnel. 

The Port of Galveston also plans to offer the vaccine to crew members next week, when the Carnival Breeze and Carnival Vista visit.

The Port of Galveston Board of Trustees announced during a meeting on Tuesday the new plan.

Through a partnership with the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), the Pfizer vaccine will be made available to crew members.

Crew vaccination part of restart plan

Getting crew members vaccinated is part of the cruise industry's plan to return to service.

Royal Caribbean has already committed itself to vaccinating all of its crew members, as of February 2021.  At the time, there was not a plan in place to do so, but vaccine eligibility in the United States is beginning to open up widely.

Moreover, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) informed cruise lines this week that if they can get 98% crew members vaccinated, they can get cruise ships back into service sooner (along with 95% vaccinated passengers).

Getting crew members to get the vaccine appears not to be a problem for Royal Caribbean.

During a call with Wall Street analysts this week, Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley said crew were overwhelmingly in favor of getting vaccinated.

In a recent survey of crew members conducted by the cruise line, Mr. Bayley said, "we had over 98 percent positive response from our crew saying, yeah, we're going to get vaccinated."

CDC says fully vaccinated Americans don’t need masks outside in most cases

In:
Category: 
27Apr2021

Recommendations for wearing face masks among the full vaccinated just changed, which may have an impact on cruise line protocols.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on Tuesday it has adjusted its guidelines for wearing of masks outdoors.

Specifically, if you are fully vaccinated, you do not need to wear a face mask outdoors unless in crowded settings.

CDC data showed as of this week, nearly 30% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated and more than 42% have received at least one dose.

Under the new guidance, fully vaccinated individuals can unmask while walking, running, hiking or biking outdoors alone or with members of their household.

The CDC says people who are fully vaccinated do not need to wear masks during outdoor activities, such as walking, biking, running alone or with members of their household. Masks are not needed in small outdoor gatherings among fully vaccinated people.

As for unvaccinated people, the CDC says vaccinated people should wear masks at outdoor gatherings that include other unvaccinated people. 

There is also no need for fully vaccinated individuals to wear a mask at outdoor restaurants with friends from multiple households.

However, vaccinated people should  wear masks at indoor public places, such as hair salons, restaurants, shopping centers, museums and movie theaters.

What about masks on cruise ships?

Royal Caribbean has not announced its health protocols for cruises sailing from North America or Europe this summer outside of the United States, but face masks are almost certainly going to be required to be worn.

Onboard Quantum of the Seas in Singapore, wearing a face mask is mandatory.

On Quantum, guests are required to wear masks outdoors on the pool deck, unless they are in the pool, drinking, eating, or actively engaging in a designated activity (i.e. the Flowrider surf simulator).

Whether or not the CDC's updated guidance will change Royal Caribbean's health protocols in the short term remain to be seen.

Royal Caribbean's health protocols during the global health crisis have been shaped by the Healthy Sail Panel, a joint venture between the Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

The panel is made up of of scientists and public health experts, chaired by Governor Mike Leavitt and Dr. Scott Gottlieb.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said cruise line protocols will change with the science, "As the science continues to progress, I think we will change and we will adjust to that. And I think we're now trying to predict the future. Remember, these cruises don't start till June."

5 reasons why what happened to cruise ships in 2020 will never happen again

In:
Category: 
27Apr2021

Whether it is the CDC, a lawmaker, or family member, people will bring up what happened to cruise ships in early 2020 as a reason why cruises should not restart now.

Similar to how some people still bring up what happened to the Titanic as all they need to know about not taking a cruise, the events at the beginning of the global health crisis involving a couple of cruise ships in Asia led to sensational headlines and those memories still dominate the discussion related to why cruise ships cannot sail again now.

Perhaps no one has been more focused on what happened in January 2020 than the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), who still cite events that occurred on the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess cruise ships in January 2020 as proof unrestricted cruise ship travel would be dangerous.

Pages 8 through 11 of the CDC's Conditional Sail Order go into great detail to document what happened on those ships more than 15 months ago.

What happened on cruise ships in January 2020, just like all around the world, were reflections of a naive society beginning to learn about how this new virus functioned and spread.

While the cruise industry struggles to prove it can safely sail from the United States, here is why what happened on cruise ships at the very start of the global health crisis will all but certainly never happen again.

Our knowledge of Covid is much different now

The principal problem with comparing what happened to a ship like the Diamond Princess or Grand Princess to a ship sailing today is that our knowledge of the virus is completely different.

In January 2020, very little was known about Covid, and the Japanese government simply isolated the ship and let the people and crew onboard sit there until the virus "burnt itself out", similar to how firefighters might let a fire burn to prevent it spreading elsewhere.

The World Health Organization (WHO) stated in January 2020 it was still trying to determine, "exact ways its spread and the incubation period."

Public health officials at the time said wearing masks were useful "but have a limited effect". 

Since then, everyone's knowledge of Covid and how it spreads and how to mitigate its spread has changed significantly.

Knowledge of how Covid works today makes the assumptions and treatment of it in January 2020 null and void.

New health protocols

Besides not really knowing much about Covid in early 2020, cruise ships back then had absolutely no protocols on place to mitigate the spread of the virus onboard.

Just like how airplanes, theme parks, and pretty much every facet of life had no safeguards in place, cruise ships were operating in early 2020 without the new strict protocols that any ship sailing today would absolutely mandate.

Royal Caribbean, and the entire cruise industry, has already committed to adopting sweeping new health protocols and changes onboard that would largely prevent the spread of Covid on a ship.

In just one ship sailing from Singapore, Royal Caribbean has committed to guests wearing face masks, universal testing of every single passenger and crew member, strict contact tracing, social distancing and more.

These, and other new protocols, will almost certainly be implemented on any ship sailing in 2021. This makes the conditions onboard ships from early 2020 completely uncharacteristic of what it will be like on a ship sailing today.

Moreover, these health protocols make cruise ships safer than many other forms of travel, where little to no testing is done of customers.

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

Agreements with ports

Just as important as the new health protocols, is the cruise lines are ensuring no ship can be isolated and left quarantined indefinitely by working with local governments for an emergency action plan.

Every cruise line is keenly aware the memory of those Princess cruise ships quarantined off the coast of Japan still resonates with many potential customers as cause for concern not to book.

As a result, Royal Caribbean has announced it has deals in place with local governments it sails from to ensure if there was a case onboard, the cruise line would get guests home safely.

For sailings on Quantum of the Seas from Singapore, Royal Caribbean partnered with Singapore's health authorities to ensure they can get guests home safely.  These transport agreements in Singapore are part of the plan to avoid being "stuck" on a cruise ship.

For sailings this summer from the Caribbean, Royal Caribbean has a "a robust, tiered response plan".

In the event that a guest or crew member tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 onboard, a robust, tiered response plan will be activated and is in accordance with guidance from local authorities and leading public health experts. The tiers increase protocols and vigilance onboard, while providing transparent correspondence to guests throughout the process. In partnership with local authorities, Royal Caribbean has developed transport protocols to ensure impacted guests get home safely. Thanks to rapid technology-enabled contact tracing, potential exposure to other guests and crew can be promptly identified and an action plan enabled.

Concerned this sounds like all talk, and if a case were to really happen onboard governments would balk? We already know that will not be the case.

In December 2020, there was a positive case on Quantum of the Seas sailing from Singapore.

It turned out to be a false positive, but the ship was allowed to immediately return to Singapore and all guests were able to disembark safely and in a timely fashion.

The vaccine

On top of all the protocols and agreements, vaccines are something that did not exist in early 2020.

While Royal Caribbean is still deciding if it will require the vaccine or not across the fleet, ships sailing this summer will definitely require it for adults onboard in the interim.

Moreover, vaccine requirements or not, a lot of people are getting the vaccine anyway, and that greatly mitigates the at risk population onboard.

At the very least, the first cruise ships sailing this summer will require adults onboard to be vaccinated, as well as every single crew member. 

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

Real world proof ships can sail safely

Not only is everything listed here backed up by input from leading public health officials, this approach to safely cruising is already happening in parts of the world since summer 2020.

Based on public reporting, almost 400,000 passengers that have sailed during the global health crisis with fewer than 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) member cruise line ships since resumption started last summer.

This has demonstrated the new health protocols work, and more importantly, no cruise ship has been left isolated in a manner like those ships in early 2020.

European Union to allow fully vaccinated Americans during summer 2021

In:
Category: 
26Apr2021

There is good news for Americans who are thinking about going to Europe this summer, especially on a cruise.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, told the New York Times that Americans who have been fully vaccinated, will be allowed to visit European countries over the summer.

"All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by E.M.A."

Prior to this announcement, nonessential travel to the European Union has been officially banned except for a few countries with low Covid cases.

It is not clear exactly when this change would become available. In addition, these plans depend on the status of Covid at the time, but rapidly improving situations in the United States and Europe compelled the change.

Countries with a large tourist base, such as Greece, have been lobbying for the change.

It appears Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Croatia are the countries leading the charge to allow Americans, since their economy relies so heavily on tourism.

Technical discussions have been going on for several weeks between European Union and United States officials on how to practically and technologically make vaccine certificates from each place broadly readable so that citizens can use them to travel without restrictions.

While Royal Caribbean has announced a few ships that will sail from Europe this summer, most of its European cruise season remains in flux, similar to the cruise situation in the United States.

So far, Jewel of the Seas will sail from Cyprus to Greece, and those sailings are open for bookings by Americans.

Anthem of the Seas is sailing from England, and Odyssey of the Seas from Israel, although both of those ships are limited to residents of their respective homeport countries.

Harmony of the Seas still has scheduled sailings from Barcelona for summer 2021, and  Rhapsody of the Seas has sailings from Venice (Ravenna), Italy.

While this recommendation by the European Commission will be put forth, individual member states may reserve the right to keep stricter limits. Moreover, other restrictions may be implemented by member states, including quarantines.

Report: Royal Caribbean temporarily halts hiring new crew members from India

In:
Category: 
26Apr2021

The latest impact the global health crisis has had on the cruise industry is now hiring.

The amount of new coronavirus cases in India continues to climb, creating a major health emergency in the country. 

India's health ministry reported 352,991 more infections, taking the total past 17 million. A record 2,812 deaths were confirmed Monday, taking the total to 195,123 since the pandemic began.

India set a new record daily cases for a fourth straight day on Sunday.

A new report indicates Royal Caribbean has paused hiring crew members from India due to the rapid escalation of cases there.

The Crewcenter website shared the contents of a letter sent by Royal Caribbean that the company has decided to "temporary cancel all assignments for shipboard employees from India or people who reside in this country".

Royal Caribbean's letter to crew members reads as follows, "It’s always unfortunate when we must cancel assignments but we believe this is a prudent decision at this time. We know how much our crew look forward to returning to work after waiting for so long."

"We also understand how tough it can be to have to make last minute travel changes. It’s not the way that we want to operate, but it is the reality of the quick changes we need to make based on different reasons that are often unplanned and beyond our direct control."

"Those crew members who are currently at hotels pending joining a ship or are currently en route (already flying) will be notified and accommodation will be provided under quarantine guidelines till further notice. They will be kept informed by the HR ops team as needed."

RoyalCaribbeanBlog reached out to the Royal Caribbean Group for confirmation of the new policy, and a spokesperson indicated there has been a shift in hiring from India.

"We continue to monitor impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic around the world including travel restrictions to and from areas with a high rate of cases."

"To ensure the continued health and safety of our crew, guests and the residents of the destination we visit, we are currently exercising extra caution in the movement of any crew from India to our ships due to the recent surge of COVID-19."

Royal Caribbean is in the midst of preparing a few of its cruise ships to restart sailings this summer, and getting crew members back onboard is a critical piece to resume sailings.

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships have been manned by skeleton crews during the industry shutdown, and any vessel that is going to offer sailings this summer would need to get back enough crew members to support the guests sailing.

Based on posts seen on social media, Royal Caribbean is in the process of hiring back at least some crew members to its ships. 

Many are in various phases of quarantine to prepare them to join the ship in a few weeks.

Five cruise ships are expected to restart sailings this summer outside of the United States, including Adventure, Vision, Odyssey, Anthem and Jewel of the Seas.

CDC keeps highest warning level possible against going on a cruise ship

In:
Category: 
14Apr2021

The CDC may be dragging their feet on providing cruise lines a path forward, but their warning to the public to avoid cruise ship travel has been updated.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) updated their "COVID-19 and Cruise Ship Travel" webpage with recommendations for anyone going on a cruise this summer.

In November 2020, the CDC warned the public to avoid going on any cruise ship because of "very high level of COVID-19". That warning has not changed, and the agency provided advice for anyone that does so anyway.

"At this time, CDC still recommends avoiding any travel on cruise ships, including river cruises, worldwide, because the risk of COVID-19 on cruise ships is very high."

"It is especially important that people with an increased risk of severe illness avoid travel on cruise ships, including river cruises. Cruise passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, and outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on cruise ships because of their congregate settings where COVID-19 spreads easily."

The CDC maintains its Level 4 warning for cruise travel, while not recommending unvaccinated people avoid domestic air travel at all. It's advice for international air travel for unvaccinated people is to get vaccinated without any high level warning at all.

The CDC's "congregate settings" description of cruise ship travel is the same definition it uses for prisons, nursing homes, workplace settings and more.

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

CDC's advice for anyone going on a cruise this summer

If you choose not to heed the CDC's advice, the agency did update its recommendations for cruise travel.

Before you travel:

  • Get fully vaccinated against COVID-19 if a vaccine is available to you.
    • People are considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after a single dose in a one-dose series or last dose in a two-dose series.
  • Get tested with a COVID-19 viral test 1–3 days before your departure, even if you are fully vaccinated.
    • If you test positive, isolate and do NOT travel.

While you are traveling:

  • Stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about 2 arm lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you. It’s important to do this everywhere—both indoors and outdoors.
  • Wear a mask to keep your nose and mouth covered when you are in shared spaces. Masks are required on planes, cruise ships, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports, seaports, and train and subway stations.
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, stay in your cabin, and notify the onboard medical center immediately.

If you are returning to an international port or disembarking an international river cruise:

  • Your return travel plans may be impacted. Foreign health officials may implement formal quarantine procedures if they identify a case of COVID-19 aboard your cruise ship.
  • If you travel on a cruise ship or river cruise and disembark in a foreign port, you might not be able to receive appropriate medical care or be medically evacuated if you get sick.
  • Some countries might refuse to dock your ship or allow passengers to disembark.

If you return to the United States by air:

  • All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated people, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result no more than 3 days before travel or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the past 3 months before they board a flight to the United States.

After you travel:

If you are fully vaccinated: 

  • Get tested 3–5 days after your trip.
  • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after travel; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
  • You do NOT need to stay home and self-quarantine aftr cruise travel.

If you are not fully vaccinated:

  • Get tested 3–5 days after your trip.
  • If your test is positive, isolate yourself to protect others from getting infected.
  • Self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms for 14 days after travel; isolate and get tested if you develop symptoms.
  • Stay home and self-quarantine for 7 days after cruise travel, even if you test negative.
  • If you do not get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after cruise travel.
  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days, whether you get tested or not.

Cruise lines new health protocols

Reading through the warning, the CDC makes no mention of any new health protocols and essentially talks about going on a cruise in the same manner they existed before the pandemic began.

Other than recommending getting fully vaccinated before the cruise (which is something many cruise lines are requiring this summer), there is no mention of enhanced cruise ship protocols aimed at preventing the spread onboard.

Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings teamed up to form a panel of scientists and public health experts to craft a strategy for cruises to sail as safe as possible during the global health crisis.

The Healthy Sail Panel that created these new rules is chaired by Governor Mike Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Recommendations include testing, the use of face coverings, and enhanced sanitation procedures on ships and in terminals. 

The Healthy Sail Panel identified five areas of focus every cruise operator should address to improve health and safety for guests and crew, and reduce the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships:

  • Testing, Screening and Exposure Reduction
  • Sanitation and Ventilation
  • Response, Contingency Planning and Execution
  • Destination and Excursion Planning
  • Mitigating Risks for Crew Members

Moreover, Norwegian Cruise Line petitioned the CDC recently to only allow fully vaccinated people onboard its ships this summer, to which they have not received an answer yet.

Royal Caribbean is requiring all adults on its ships be fully vaccinated to sail this summer (except Quantum of the Seas from Singapore).

Royal Caribbean cancels most cruises in June

In:
Category: 
08Apr2021

Royal Caribbean has joined the fray of other cruise lines that have thrown in the towel and cancelled many of their June cruises.

While a handful of ships will be able to sail outside of the United States in June, most of the cruises scheduled in June were officially cancelled.

Royal Caribbean announced it has cancelled all of its cruises through June 30, 2021, excluding sailings onboard Quantum, Spectrum, Voyager, Anthem, Adventure, Vision, Jewel, and Odyssey of the Seas. 

The exception to the new round of cancellations are the few ships that will be homeported outside the United States and confirmed to be sailing this summer including:

  • Adventure of the Seas from Nassau, Bahamas
  • Vision of the Seas from Bermuda
  • Odyssey of the Seas from Haifa, Israel
  • Quantum of the Seas from Singapore
  • Jewel of the Seas from Cyprus (beginning in July)
  • Anthem of the Seas from Southampton (beginning in July)

Royal Caribbean's decision to cancel its June cruise comes weeks after a number of other cruise lines cancelled their June cruises, including Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, and Carnival Cruise Line.

Read moreWhat you should do now that Royal Caribbean cancelled your cruise

Compensation

Guests affected by the cancelled cruises between June 1 - 30,  2021, have three options for compensation.

Lift & Shift: Move to a qualifying 2022 sailing between May 18th, 2022 – June 15th, 2022 on the same itinerary, sailing length, embarkation port, stateroom category and departing within 2-weeks of the original sail date and your client's cruise fare/promotion is protected. This option is available until April 22, 2021.

125% Future Cruise Credit: To account for the inconvenience this has caused, guests are eligible for a 125% Future Cruise Credit (FCC) that is based on the total cruise fare paid at the guest-level if neither of the other options is selected. 

Taxes and fees, as well as any pre-purchased amenities or onboard packages, will be automatically refunded to the original form of payment within 45 days from the cancelation date.

Additionally, if you redeemed your Cruise with Confidence Future Cruise Credit on a sailing that is now cancelled, their original FCC will be reinstated, plus 125% of any amount paid by the guest on the cancelled reservation.

Refund: If you prefer a cash refund, you can do so by requesting this option on-or-before June 30, 2021.

You can expect their refund to the original form of payment within 45 days from the cancellation date. 

If you redeemed a Cruise with Confidence Future Cruise Credit on an impacted sailing and would now prefer a refund instead, Royal Caribbean will process this request in the amount of any new funds paid above the original certificate and, in turn, will reinstate the Cruise with Confidence FCC for future use.

Cruise Planner Purchases: If you had purchased any cruise add-ons, such as shore excursions, drink packages, wifi and more, you could opt to convert your Cruise Planner purchases  to an Onboard Credit valued at 125% of the total amount paid. This offer expires on April 22, 2021.

When will the CDC let cruise ships sail from the United States?

The struggle to get permission for cruise ships to sail from the United States has never been more contentious than right now.

Over the past few weeks, a number of cruise industry leaders, legislators, local politicians and public officials have all called on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to allow cruise ships to sail again.

Overwhelmingly, the push to get cruise ships operational again has been due to sweeping new health protocols, along with the rest of the travel sector already open and running.

The CDC has not provided any kind of a resumption schedule for cruise ships, leaving the industry in limbo. 

Ultimately, no one knows when cruises might actually restart from the U.S., but hopefully there will be a path forward soon.

There are summer 2021 cruises you can actually go on

If your June cruise was cancelled and now you want to find another sailing that will actually sail, there are a few ships to choose from.

Royal Caribbean has redeployed a few of its cruise ships to get around the CDC, and these ships are open for booking by Americans to sail this summer.

Yes, there will be cruises you can go on this summer, they just will not be departing or visiting any U.S. ports.

Adventure of the Seas will begin sailing first, offering 7-night cruises from Nassau, Bahamas on June 12, 2021.

Vision of the Seas will also begin sailing in June, with 7-night cruises from Bermuda beginning on June 26, 2021.

If you happen to live in Israel, Odyssey of the Seas will be sailing from Israel, but these are open to Israeli residents only.

Quantum of the Seas continues to sail from Singapore, but it is only bookable by Singaporean residents.

5 ways the CDC proves it doesn't understand cruise ships

In:
Category: 
06Apr2021

I believe it was the 20th century American philosopher, actor, rapper, and film producer Williard Carroll Smith Jr. who famously postulated, "Parents just don't understand", and clearly neither does the CDC.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) holds the cruise industry back from restarting sailings under the Framework for Conditional Sail Order (CSO), it has provided a litany of examples that it has failed to understand how cruise ships operate, as well as any grasp on the lengths cruise lines are will to go to keep everyone onboard safe.

Buried throughout the CDC's own documentation are instances of double standards, incorrect summarization, and just odd logic.

Behold the proof why after reading through the CSO, it is clear the CDC doesn't understand cruising.

The CDC thinks cruise ships are in the same category as prisons

Believe it or not, the CDC thinks cruise ships have more in common with prisons than airplanes.

The CDC released its Phase 2A technical instructions for cruise lines as part of its Framework for Conditional Sail Order (CSO) last week, and it said that, "for purposes of these instructions, CDC considers cruise ships to constitute a residential congregate setting."

The CDC defines a congregate setting as "a setting in which a group of usually unrelated persons reside, meet, or gather either for a limited or extended period of time in close physical proximity."

Some examples of a congregate setting include:

  • Schools
  • Nursing homes
  • Correctional facilities
  • Places of worship
  • Hospitals
  • Shelters
  • Social settings
  • Workplace settings

Source: CDC

Since the CDC used the word "residential" to describe it, that infers somewhere that people stay overnight. So, we are left with nursing homes, correctional facilities, and perhaps shelters.

Even if you buy into the fact prisons and cruise ships are the same setting, that has not stopped prisons from opening up.

New York's Department of Corrections and Community Supervision announced it will resume visitation within its facilities starting Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in maximum security facilities, and all other locations on Saturday, May 1, 2021. 

So you can go to Sing Sing, but not Symphony of the Seas.

CDC wants cruise lines to only use gangways once every 12 hours

What is the difference between a gangway to a cruise ship and a jetway to an airplane? Evidently a lot.

As part of the safety procedures the CDC recommends, the agency says to ensure passengers do not get too close, they say places such as gangways, terminal waiting spaces, and check-in areas should not be occupied within the same 12-hour period.

Airports use their jetways to get passengers from airplane terminals to airplanes hourly, and throughout the day.  Certainly not with 12-hour spacing.

Even in a hospital, where known Covid-19 patients may be walking in, there is not a protocol to essentially close off a hallway/entryway for 12 hours at a time.

Moreover, revised guidance issued on Monday by the CDC said surface transmission of Covid-19 is low.

"It is possible for people to be infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects (fomites), but the risk is generally considered to be low."

Risk

The CDC really seems to see risk in a completely different light when it comes to cruise ships versus any other form on travel.

On the same day CDC issued new onerous requirements for the cruise industry, five months after the original order, CDC issued relaxed guidance for domestic and international travel due to vaccination progress and recognition of the improved public health environment.

The CDC said fully vaccinated people can travel internationally without getting a COVID-19 test before travel unless it is required by the international destination.

As the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) pointed out, the CDC's approach to cruises seem to reflect a zero-risk objective rather than the mitigation approach to COVID that is the basis for every other U.S. sector of our society.

CDC wants cruise lines to do things they're already doing

You might think new instructions would help shape the direction cruise lines can go, but a great deal of these are already being done or committed to by the cruise lines.

One major area of Phase 2A of the technical instructions has to do with agreements with local authorities in the event of a positive case onboard.

Creating planning materials for agreements that port authorities and local health authorities must approve to ensure cruise lines have the necessary infrastructure in place to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 on their ships to include healthcare capacity and housing to isolate infected people and quarantine those who are exposed.

Royal Caribbean has been doing that since they restarted cruises with Quantum of the Seas in Singapore in December 2020.  Royal Caribbean and Singapore have an agreement to rapidly get infected people isolated and then off the ship for medical attention, while then attending to the rest of the crew and passengers to ensure they are healthy.

We saw this plan in action when a false positive case was reported on Quantum of the Seas.

When Royal Caribbean announced it would restart sailings in The Bahamas and Bermuda this summer.

 In the event of COVID-19-related expenses, Royal Caribbean will cover onboard medical treatment, cost of any required land-based quarantine, and travel home for you, your travel party, and any confirmed close contacts

Another requirement is "establishing a plan and timeline for vaccination of crew and port personnel."

In the United States, President Joe Biden has already committed to any American adult who wants to can be vaccinated by May, so that covers any port personnel in the U.S.

Moreover, Royal Caribbean has said in February 20201 that it intends to vaccinate all of its crew members.

Ignoring evidence new health protocols work

Perhaps most glaring is the fact the CDC has not taken into account the sizable sample size of data from cruises operating around the world with stellar results.

Nearly 400,000 passengers have already sailed from Europe and parts of Asia since last summer, following stringent, science-based protocols that resulted in a far lower incident rate than on land (fewer than 50 confirmed cases of COVID-19 onboard). 

Quantum of the Seas has had over 50,000 guests sail onboard with zero positive Covid-19 cases to date.

This approach by the CDC does not recognize the public health advances that have been made over many months, including the ability to effectively mitigate risk on cruise ships. 

Moreover, Royal Caribbean has demonstrated it is willing to require adults to be vaccinated for its sailings this summer outside the U.S., and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings proposed it would commit to only fully vaccinated passengers onboard.

Cruise industry rejects new CDC technical instructions & calls them "unworkable"

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05Apr2021

The cruise industry has renewed its call for cruise ships to be able to sail again, calling new federal instructions "disappointing".

On Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued new technical instructions after many months of silence, but the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) today responded to them as not helpful.

In a statement, CLIA called on the U.S. government to once again lift the Conditional Sail Order (CSO), rather than continue with these steps.

CLIA represents nearly every major ocean, river, and specialty cruise line, including Royal Caribbean.

In short, CLIA called out the technical instructions, "The new requirements are unduly burdensome, largely unworkable, and seem to reflect a zero-risk objective rather than the mitigation approach to COVID that is the basis for every other US sector of our society."

Read more: Read the technical instructions

CLIA pointed out the glaring double standards that the cruise industry faces compared to every other form of travel.

"Moreover, the instructions are at odds with the approach the CDC and governments in other parts of the world apply to all other travel and tourism segments in mitigating the risk of COVID-19."

"On the same day CDC issued new onerous requirements for the cruise industry, five months after the original order, CDC issued relaxed guidance for domestic and international travel due to vaccination progress and recognition of the improved public health environment."

CLIA reitterated not only its call to lift the CSO, but also reminded the CDC about the working examples of cruise ships that have been able to operate around the world with extremely low cases onboard.

"The irony is that today an American can fly to any number of destinations to take a cruise, but cannot board a ship in the U.S."

CLIA believes a joint effort can restart sailings faster and with the health and safety in mind of all passengers, crew, and local communities than continuing with the CSO.

"CLIA urges the Administration to consider the ample evidence that supports lifting the CSO this month to allow for the planning of a controlled return to service this summer. If anything, the announcement last Friday is a clarion call for closer cooperation and coordination among stakeholders to achieve the President’s goal of reaching a ‘new normal’ by the Fourth of July.

"Working together, we can avoid the negative consequences that come when cruising, and the workers who support it, are not afforded the same opportunities as other workers in industries with far fewer practices in place to provide for public health and well-being."

The new technical instructions were as disappointing as Royal Caribbean President and CEO Michael Bayley had feared they would be.

Last week, Mr. Bayley used the word, "worried" to describe what the CDC may tell cruise lines to do if they actually provided any kind of guidance.

"We're worried that the guidance that we're going to get is going to be pretty outdated."

Joining CLIA in its disappointment was Port Canaveral, whose CEO shared his disdain for the new instructions.

Captain John Murray, Port Canaveral CEO, issued a statement criticizing them, "We’re disappointed that this guidance for the cruise industry appears to be nothing more than an incremental step in a far-reaching process to resume passenger sailings in the U.S. with no definitive or target start date."

The Port of Galveston also voiced their displeasure with the new instructions.

Galveston Wharves CEO and Port Director Rodger Rees called on the CDC to lift the CSO citing the inaction by the agency, "As CEO and port director of the fourth most popular cruise port in North America and the only cruise port in Texas, I am joining Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), major cruise lines and many others in calling for the CDC to lift the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) and allow safe, sustainable phased cruising to begin in July."

"The CDC has taken no action despite the following facts: millions of Americans are vaccinated; COVID case numbers in the U.S. have declined significantly in recent months; cruise ports and cruise lines have put measures in place for safe, sustainable cruising; cruising in markets around the world has resumed while preventing or limiting spread of the virus."

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