The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), representing more than 90% of cruise lines in the world, has developed a health and safety plan for the controlled resumption of cruises in the US and submitted it to the CDC for consideration.
The plan, a set of mandatory health protocols to be followed, is based on lessons learnt by Costa, MSC, AIDA and TUI in Europe where limited cruises are resuming. According to the CLIA, the safe resumption of cruises in Europe shows that this can be applied to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America.
CLIA member cruise lines have voluntarily paused all operations in the US and elsewhere (apart from Europe) until at least October 31st, while the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has issued a No Sail Order for cruise ships in the US until at least September 30th.
As was expected in previous reports, the plan calls for mandatory testing of all passengers and crew, as well as ‘social bubble’ shore excursions where interaction between passengers and the public onshore is eliminated.
This is what has been done on cruises in Europe, without any COVID-19 incidents reported thus far.
CLIA health and safety measures at a glance:
Testing:100% testing of passengers and crew for COVID-19 prior to embarkation.
Mask-Wearing: Mandatory wearing of masks by all passengers and crew onboard and during excursions whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained.
Social Distancing: Physical distancing in terminals, onboard ships, on private islands and during shore excursions.
Ventilation: Air management and ventilation strategies to increase fresh air onboard 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 permitted 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.
Brian Salerno, Senior Vice President of Maritime Policy at CLIA, said that crew would undergone three levels of testing before being allowed to work onboard, but added that the elements outlined above are to be considered as “building blocks” intended to be adjusted or changed as conditions change.
An example of this is the fact that the CLIA has not revealed the nature of the tests to be conducted (PVC nasal swabs versus rapid COVID testing). It said in a statement that this was due to the fast-evolving nature of medical knowledge and technology around COVID-19.
Pierfranceso Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, which has brought two ships back into service in Europe, pointed out that the line has already dropped old testing technologies in favor of new ones.
He added that quick testing, done in minutes, as in Europe, will be the most likely scenario going forward.
What was made clear was that cruises in the US will be reintroduced slowly, as they have been in Europe. CLIA Chairman Adam Goldstein said that a phased, sequential startup of operations would ne necessary to ensure safety.
Frank Del Rio, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings has already suggested that extensive training will be necessary for crew to ensure the safety of passengers. He’s said sailing for a few days at sea without passengers may be required, and suggested a 30-day window between CDC approval and the resumption of cruises in the US.
CLIA said that their protocols are based on its work with the cruise lines and teams of scientists and medical experts and would form the baseline of compliance for member lines, all of which will likely have additional health and safety protocols that they will put in place based on their individual circumstances.
CLIA also said that these core 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.