Former FDA commissioner says cruises could be a 'lower risk endeavor' compared to other travel
  • Cruises could be “lower risk” compared to travel options like international trips, Scott Gottlieb told CNBC.
  • Gottlieb is a former FDA commissioner and the co-chair of Norwegian and Royal Caribbean’s Health Sail Panel.
  • Cruise lines have implemented many health protocols that could turn ships into “protective bubbles.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Cruising could be a “lower risk” travel option compared to other alternatives, such as overseas vacations, Scott Gottlieb, the former US Food and Drug Administration commissioner, said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on April 9.


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Many major cruise lines have created robust health and safety protocols to make the return of sailing safer amid COVID-19. This includes Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean Group, which partnered to establish the Healthy Sail Panel. The panel suggests ways for the industry to move ahead safely amid virus concerns and is currently being co-chaired by Gottlieb, a Pfizer board member.

The panel has already recommended 74 protocols, from face mask use to COVID-19 testing for guests and crew.

“As you start to implement all these public health recommendations that we’ve outlined, you start to create an environment that can be quite safe,” Gottlieb told CNBC. “You can create a protective bubble around the [cruise] experience.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, virus outbreaks aboard cruise ships around the world left thousands of cruisers stranded or infected. Shortly after, the CDC put a no-sail order in place, which was later replaced by its recently updated conditional sailing order.

Read more: Carnival and Royal Caribbean salaries revealed: From $32,000 to $383,000, here’s how much the cruise industry’s power players pay some of their employees

To make the return of sailing safer, several cruise lines have implemented COVID-19 vaccine mandates. This includes Norwegian, which recently declared a vaccine requirement for both guests and crew.

Shortly after this announcement, Frank Del Rio, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ president and CEO, told CNBC’s Jim Cramer that cruise ships will “de facto become the safest place on earth” as more cruise companies continue to ramp up health protocols.

“I challenge you to tell me of another venue anywhere that has this kind of ironclad health and safety protocols in place,” Del Rio told CNBC’s Cramer.

Gottlieb has since echoed Del Rio’s sentiments regarding the safety of cruise ships.

“I believe you can create a safe bubble around that experience, especially when you’re comparing it to other vacation experiences where you can’t control the environment,” Gottlieb told CNBC.

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