More than 110 cruises carrying 55,000-plus passengers have already sailed successfully in Europe, spreading hope to other destinations like Australia that it is now safe to begin cruising.
“These sailings give us confidence that we are on the right course,” says Cruise Lines International Association President and CEO Kelly Craighead says.
Cruise lines have now pledged to 100 percent testing of passengers and crew for embarkations on all ships carrying 250 or more passengers.
“We see testing as an important initial step to a multi-layered approach to protecting the health of the passengers, crew and communities visited”, Ms Craighead said this week.
Her words came as Arnold Donald, Richard Fain, Frank Del Rio, Pierfrancesco Vago — the leaders of the world’s biggest cruise lines – spoke of the European sailings as an important litmus test of the resumption of cruising.
‘We’re at an important tipping point,’ said Royal Caribbean’s Richard Fain, chairman and CEO. ‘How much we’ve learned, how far we’ve come in six months. The time seems right. All the forces are coming together.’
“Everybody’s talking about vaccines. Vaccines won’t be the magic wand. Vaccines will be part of the solution, but testing will be the solution,” said Mr Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises. MSC has already resumed sailing in Europe.
What does the ‘new normal’ for cruise look like? Well, gradual acceptance of COVID as a way of life may be an important new norm.
Cruise ships will be able to isolate and care for anyone who’s sick and let others go on with their lives, Arnold Donald, president and CEO, Carnival Corporation told a recent Seatrade conference.
“Government resources will not be needed to deal with it because we have accounted for it,” Mr Fain said.
The conference heard why it was not possible to flip a switch and resume cruising.
NCLH President and CEO Del Rio explained: “It is not turning on a light switch. We have to repatriate crew. We have to install the different technologies and the 74 recommendations from the Healthy Sail Panel.”
It takes at least 60 days – two months – to get a mothballed cruise ship up and running again.
But Mr Del Rio said bookings are strong, with Regent Seven Seas selling out its 2023 world cruise within a week of launching.
“We’re at an important tipping point,” said Mr Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group. “How much we’ve learned, how far we’ve come in six months. The time seems right. All the forces are coming together.”
100% testing — globally
Announced today, testing of all passengers and crew has been agreed to by all Cruise Lines International Association member lines worldwide, expanding the industry’s earlier commitment to universal testing for all lines subject to the US no-sail order. Ms Craighead said this applies to ships with the capacity to carry more than 250 people.
The cruise industry is the sole travel entity — and perhaps the only industry of any kind — to stand behind 100% testing, Mr Fain said.
“Everybody’s talking about vaccines. Vaccines won’t be the magic wand. Vaccines will be part of the solution, but testing will be the solution,” said Mr Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, which resumed sailing in mid-August from Italy.
Things have gone well during a gradual startup and passengers rate their experiences highly.
Vago said ships can provide a ‘safe cocoon.’
Still, should infections occur, it will be possible to isolate and care for anyone who’s sick and let others go on with their lives (and vacations), according to Donald, president and CEO, Carnival Corp. & plc.
“Government resources will not be needed to deal with it because we have accounted for it,” Mr Fain added.
“We can isolate [COVID] without inconveniencing our guests, our crew and, very importantly, the societies we visit and their governments.”
He also asserted cruise ships have the technology to do contact tracing better than elsewhere.
60 days to get an NCLH ship back into service
The CDC’s no-sail order and CLIA’s voluntary suspension of service go through October, which raised hope cruises may be able to start in November. But yesterday, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said its three brands would delay through November.
During the ‘State of the Global Cruise Industry’ session today, NCLH President and CEO Mr Del Rio explained it takes time to start up a ship, especially if it’s been laid up for six-plus months.
“It is not turning on a light switch,” he said. “We have to repatriate crew. We have to install the different technologies and the 74 recommendations from the Healthy Sail Panel.”