Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has adopted mandatory core elements of a set of health protocols to be implemented as part of a phased-in, highly controlled resumption of operations.
A critical next step, now that initial sailings have begun effectively with strict protocols in Europe, is the resumption of operations in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America (the Americas), which encompass the largest cruise market in the world, CLIA said.
Involving leading scientists, medical experts, and health authorities, the core elements are the product of extensive work by CLIA’s oceangoing cruise lines and their teams of science and medical experts, including the recommendations from the Healthy Sail panel established by Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, as well as MSC’s Blue Ribbon group and Carnival Corp’s collection of outside independent experts.
Other considerations included the effective protocols developed for the successful sailings in Europe by MSC Cruises, Costa, TUI Cruises, Ponant, Seadream, and others.
CLIA’s Global Board unanimously voted to adopt all of the listed core elements for an initial restart of limited operations in the Americas and, most important, operations related to US ports. These elements will be continuously evaluated and adjusted against the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the availability of new prevention, therapeutics, and mitigation measures.
As well as the Americas, the core elements mirror the successful resumption of cruising in other parts of the world and include 100% testing of passengers and crew prior to boarding — a travel industry first, CLIA said.
Initial cruises would sail on modified itineraries under stringent protocols that encompass the entirety of the cruise experience, from booking to debarkation. With support and approval of regulators and destinations, cruises could feasibly begin during the remainder of 2020.
These elements, which are applicable to CLIA member ocean-going cruise ships subject to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ‘No Sail Order’, will also be submitted by ’CLIA on behalf of its members in response to the CDC’s Request for Information (RFI) related to the safe resumption of cruise operations. CLIA’s response to the RFI also details other measures that address the entire cruise experience from booking to disembarkation.
Highlights of the core elements include:
• Testing. 100% testing of passengers and crew for COVID-19 prior to embarkation.
• Mask-Wearing. Mandatory wearing of masks by all passengers and crew on board and during excursions whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained
• Distancing. Physical distancing in terminals, on board ships, on private islands and during shore excursions
• Ventilation. Air management and ventilation strategies to increase fresh air on board and, where feasible, using enhanced filters and other technologies to mitigate risk
• Medical Capability: Risk based response plans tailored for each ship to manage medical needs, dedicated cabin capacity allocated for isolation and other operational measures, and advance arrangements with private providers for shoreside quarantine, medical facilities, and transportation.
• Shore Excursions: Only permit shore excursions according to the cruise operators’ prescribed protocols, with strict adherence required of all passengers and denial of re-boarding for any passengers that do not comply.
Implementation of these elements on board every deepsea ship subject to the CDC’s ‘No Sail Order’ is mandatory and requires written verification of adoption by each company’s CEO.
These elements do not preclude additional measures that may be adopted by individual lines. Measures will be continuously evaluated and adjusted against the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the availability of new prevention and mitigation measures, CLIA said.
CLIA president and CEO, Kelly Craighead (pictured), explained: “We recognise the devastating impact that this pandemic, and the subsequent suspension of cruise operations, has had on economies throughout the world, including the nearly half a million members of the wider cruise community and small businesses in the Americas who depend on this vibrant industry for their livelihoods.
“Based on what we are seeing in Europe, and following months of collaboration with leading public health experts, scientists, and governments, we are confident that these measures will provide a pathway for the return of limited sailings from the US before the end of this year.”
Carnival Corp responded to CLIA’s initiative by saying; “Our highest responsibility and top priorities are compliance, protecting the environment, and the health, safety and well-being of our guests, our crew members and the communities we visit.
“That ongoing focus is reflected in the core elements of extensive health protocols for a gradual resumption of cruise operations in the Americas submitted today by CLIA, our cruise industry association, to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The core elements submitted to the CDC incorporate input from Carnival Corporation and our nine cruise line brands, along with our fellow CLIA members.
“Across the industry, we are engaged with some of the world’s top medical experts and scientists, who are providing valuable insight to inform the ongoing and evolving development of new and enhanced protocols based on the latest scientific evidence and best practices for protection and mitigation. The cruise industry will continue to share learnings and best practices while working together as one united industry focused on the well-being of guests, crew and the communities we visit.
“Our Costa Cruises brand successfully restarted cruise operations this month in Italy, with important learnings and best practices being shared broadly across the corporation’s eight additional cruise line brands. In addition, the global cruise community continues to make significant progress in developing enhanced health and safety protocols. We look forward to collaborating with CLIA and our fellow cruise operators to work collectively with the CDC for a safe and successful restart to cruise operations in the US.”
CDC’s ‘No Sail Order’ is due to expire on 30th September. ICSI will update readers on the latest situation as it happens.