Cruise Panels and Organizations Submit Recommendations to CDC

Cruise lines and organizations join forces for a joint project to measures in place to safely take to the seas once more.

Royal Caribbean Cruises and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings have starte a joint project called The Healthy Sail Panel. They have submitted recommendations to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

The recommendations are set from a panel of both medical and scientific experts and state that focusing on prevention, testing and cleanliness, public health risks associated with the current pandemic can be mitigated in a cruise ship environment.

The Healthy Sail Panel submitted the recommendations on Monday, September 21 in response to a CDC request for public comment. This submittal and other comments will be used to provide guidance relating to travel on cruise ships moving forward.

The Healthy Sail Panel’s report is over 65 pages long and includes 74 best practices set forth to protect the public health and safety of guests, crew and ports of call.

Some of the recommendations include testing all passengers prior to embarkation, frequent testing of all crew, the use of face coverings, and enhanced sanitation procedures on ships and in terminals.

Governor Mike Leavitt, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration chair the panel.

“The Healthy Sail Panel spent the last four months studying how to better protect the health and safety of guests and crew aboard cruise ships. Taken as a comprehensive approach, we believe the Panel’s robust public health recommendations will help inform strategies for a safe resumption of sailing.”

Dr. Scott Gottlieb

Areas of Focus

The Healthy Sail Panel identified five focus areas that EVERY cruise line should address to improve health and safety for guests and crew. All to reduce the risk of infection and spread of COVID-19 on cruise ships:

  • Testing, Screening and Exposure Reduction
  • Sanitation and Ventilation Response
  • Contingency Planning and Execution
  • Destination and Excursion Planning
  • Mitigating Risks for Crew Members

For each category, the Healthy Sail Panel created practical and actionable recommendations that address specific safety concerns. Among the recommendations are key strategies and preventative measures to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from entering a ship. These measures include robust education, screening and testing of both crew and guests prior to embarkation. Reducing transmission via air management strategies and enhanced sanitation practices. Implementing detailed plans to address positive infection on board, including contingencies for onboard treatment, isolation and rapid evacuation and repatriation. Closely controlling shore excursions. Enhanced protection for crew members.

“The Healthy Sail Panel’s recommendations are robust and comprehensive, and they reflect the intense focus the panelists brought to their work. We know that both authorities around the globe and consumers expect cruise lines to provide the safest, healthiest vacations we can, and this work demonstrates our commitment to doing just that.”

Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

“We understand our responsibility to act aggressively to protect the health and safety of our guests and crew, as well as the communities where we sail, and we asked the Panel to help us learn how to best live up to that responsibility. Group. We were inspired by the depth of the Panel’s work and their determination to help us establish the strongest protocols in the travel industry.”

Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean

Fain and Del Rio said each company will use the Panel’s recommendations to shape their new, detailed operating protocols.

Related: Changes To Embarkation Process For Cruises

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA)

CLIA is the cruise industry’s leading trade organization. Members of the organization include 95% of the world’s oceangoing cruise lines. They have just announced a mandatory “Core Elements of Health Protocols.” The protocols include crew and passenger testing, mask wearing, enhanced cruise ship ventilation, enhanved response procedures and excursion protocols for ports of call.

Said Adam Goldstein, global chair of CLIA, “We are in a position to announce mandatory core elements of health protocols that we see as a path (to resuming cruising).”

The new protocols, if adopted, would apply to all CLIA member ships. This is a step by CLIA to address the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current no-sail order that is currently in place. The order bans cruising in U.S. waters through September 31 (at the time of publishing) for vessels that can carry 250 or more passengers.

CLIA worked alongside cruise lines and the rest of the panel to create and submit the “Healthy Sail Panel” recommendations.

Perhaps the most promising information to so far come from these reports and recomments was from Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of CLIA. “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 U.S. before the end of this year.”

CLIA Recommended Protocol Details

Embarkation Testing

Crew testing: 100% of crew members are to be tested before leaving home, before embarkation and after a minimum 7-day quarantine before beginning duties. They are also to be tested at least once monthly thereafter.

Passenger testing: 100% of passengers are to be tested ahead of embarkation and subsequently rescreened prior to boarding.

Onboard procedures

  • Masks: Required for all passengers and crew members on ships and during excursions when physical distancing cannot be upheld; masks are also mandatory for crew when working around food and beverages,
  • Physical distancing: Is to be maintained in accordance with health authorities’ distancing guidelines during embarkation, on excursions, private islands and on board. 
  • Ventilation: Ships are to implement air management plans to decrease risk of spread by increasing fresh air flow and using enhanced filters and other technology.

Related: Disney Cruise Line Cancels All Sailings Through December 6, 2020

Health-Related Response

To improve health-related responses on ships, cruise lines will follow certain steps if a COVID-19 case emerges.

  • Enhanced communication and reporting of illness on board.
  • Remote health evaluations and, if necessary, isolation in pre-designated cabins when needed.
  • “Risk-based” response plans and medical disembarkation protocol, including pre-made arrangements with ports partners and destinations.
  • Testing and screening for passengers and crew who may have been in contact with the ill party.

Ports of Call And Shore Excursions

All shore excursions must meet strict protocols. Passengers who do not comply with those rules on excursions will not be allowed to reboard. This is being enforced as an MSC cruise in Europe denied embarkation to a family who did not follow shore protocols.


As more becomes known, circumstances and experiences change and cruise lines are able to adapt to specfici circumstances, core elements of the protocols outlined in the plans are subject to change.

“What we have seen is that when procedures are in place and they are rigorously followed, the risk is minimized,” Christos Hadjichristodoulou, professor of hygiene and epidemiology at Greece’s University of Thessaly said in a press release.

“The core elements of the approach developed by the cruise industry, which adopt scientific evidence-based EU guidelines for COVID-19, go further than I have seen in almost any other industry,” Hadjichristodoulou continued.

Related: Set Sail Safely Act Introduced

The current no-sail order is set to expire on October 1, 2020.

There are currently over 10,000 comments submitted to the CDC in their request for public comment.

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