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Mature Couples on a Cruise Ship
PHOTO: Couples on a cruise ship. (photo viaSteve Mason / Photodisc)

A health official working as part of a joint safety task force between Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line said it could be easier to avoid coronavirus on a ship than in some major cities.

In an interview with Travel Weekly, Healthy Sail Panel co-chair Dr. Scott Gottlieb said cruise ships provide the ability to control an entire environment and implement enhanced health and safety protocols to curb potential coronavirus infections.

“We’re trying to come up with a set of measures that can be adaptable in a high prevalence environment as well as the future lower prevalence environment where [the virus] will continue to be a threat but, hopefully, a much lower threat,” Gottlieb told Travel Weekly.

“Could taking a cruise potentially be a safer way to vacation in a Covid environment than going to London?” Gottlieb continued. “I think it might.”

Gottlieb said the panel—which was created by Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain and Norwegian Cruise Line CEO Frank Del Rio—would be using the guidelines set forth by the European Union as a framework for the planned resumption of sailing.

The Healthy Sail Panel will develop an up-to-date set of standards that will be presented to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other regulators. Other team members include former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt and experts from public health, infectious disease, biosecurity, hospitality and maritime operations.

As part of the panel, 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 panel is working to prepare for the inevitable changes over the next several years as vaccines become available.

“We believe the cruise lines will be operating in the future in an environment that will be fluid,” Leavitt told Travel Weekly. “The virus will be alive even if we do have a vaccine. There will be destinations that have flare-ups. In the future. we may well see a Covid-19 alert in a particular part of the world.”

“The cruise lines have got to be adaptable and flexible enough that they can begin to choose their destinations factoring in accurate data,” Leavitt continued. “And be able to pivot when required.”

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.

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