COVID-19 pandemic has made strange bedfellows with Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings joining forces to develop enhanced health and safety standards for the cruise industry.

A new Healthy Sail Panel comprising 11 experts has been formed to improve safety and health protocols in preparation for when cruising resumes again.

The panel of experts co-chaired by Governor Mike Leavitt, former secretary of the US Department Health and Human Services and Dr Scott Gottlieb, the former Commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration, is expected to deliver its initial recommendations by the end of August.

“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 NCLH. “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.”

Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group said: “This unprecedented disease requires us to develop unprecedented standards in health and safety.”

The two cruise industry leaders, initiated the formation of the 11-member panel to compile a report to be submitted to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the health protection agency in the US which decides when cruising can safely restart again.

The report will also be shared with entire cruise industry including Cruise Lines International Association and regulators.

“Our goal in assembling this team of leading experts was to develop best practises that can improve safety and provide a roadmap for reducing the risks of COVID-19,” said Dr Gottlieb.

Joel Katz, CLIA’s Australasia managing director said: “These latest initiatives are another important step forward as we develop an industry-wide response to COVID-19 for ocean-going cruise lines worldwide.”

The Maritime Policy team for CLIA will then aggregate the work from all ocean-going cruise line members into an industry-wide policy which will “become part of requirements of all CLIA-ocean-going cruise lines worldwide.”

Meanwhile, Carnival Corporation is collaborating with the World Travel & Tourism Council to host a virtual forum of leading global scientists and health experts for the latest insights and best practices for living in a world with COVID-19. The global science summit will be held on July 23.