Cruise Lines Developing Onboard Social Distancing Guidelines

As part of the joint safety task force created by Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line, dubbed the Healthy Sail Panel, officials will be developing practical social distancing measures for cruise ships.

When vessels are once again permitted to sail—no definitive timetable has been developed—officials from both Royal Caribbean and Norwegian said they expect to operate the ships with limited passenger capacity.

A Royal Caribbean spokesperson announced the company would reduce the number of travelers allowed on each vessel due to an effort to social distancing protocols developed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The cruise lines are also working on other mandates to ensure a safe distance between travelers, including reducing capacity at restaurants, adding showtimes at entertainment venues, staggering embarkation and check-in times and more.

The Healthy Sail Panel was created by Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain and Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Frank Del Rio and would use the guidelines set forth by the European Union as a framework for the planned resumption of sailing.

“This unprecedented disease requires us to develop unprecedented standards in health and safety,” Fain said. “Bringing aboard these respected experts to guide us forward demonstrates our commitment to protecting our guests, our crews and the communities we visit.”

As part of the task force, members will be split into groups focused on different aspects of the cruise process, including testing protocols; modifying the ship to improve health, safety and hygiene; and destination and route planning.

In addition to the focus on short-term solutions for potential issues surrounding shore excursions, food service, public pools and more, the Healthy Sail Panel is preparing for the inevitable changes over the next several years as vaccines become available.

The CDC’s no-sail order remains in place until July 24 or the COVID-19 public health emergency is declared over. As part of that order, the CDC and the U.S. Coast Guard must approve a detailed operational plan.

Earlier this week, the Carnival Corporation also announced a virtual summit on COVID-19 health and social distancing protocols in partnership with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), scheduled for July 23.

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