Royal Caribbean International’s President and CEO Michael Bayley highlighted the importance of the COVID-19 vaccines in the company’s planned restart in North America and the Caribbean.
“Nine months ago, we formed a task force with the cruise industry, bringing together the cruise lines that operate in the Caribbean and the Caribbean countries … That team, which consisted of over 14 countries and all of the cruise companies, has met on a regular basis to talk about how we will operate in the future,” Bayley said, speaking at a Caribbean Tourism Organization event held on Wednesday.
According to Bayley the progress of the vaccination programs around the world has changed the conversation topic.
“In the beginning, we were very engaged with discussions over protocols, masks, testing and trying to align protocols of the countries with protocols of the ships, harmonizing all of it to create a sense of safety and security trough shared collaboration and science,” he explained.
“Now, with vaccines, it is beginning to shift. Using the CDC as an example, we see that, cautiously, they are relaxing many of the rules and regulations because they are getting science and data that shows that, if you are a vaccinated community, there’s very little transmission. It is a much different environment.”
In this light, the industry has committed itself to fully vaccinate all of its crew members, according to Bayley.
“That will take some time and we know that currently there is a vaccine shortage in many parts of the world, but we’ve been assured that, in the coming months, there will be a lot of vaccines made available globally.”
Guests are also expected to be vaccinated, regardless of the mandates currently in place.
“We know that from the majority of our guests who are currently booking. Using the Caribbean data as an example, since January, over 80 percent of all of our bookings in 2021 and 2022 are from guests who have been vaccinated,” Bayley said.
With the COVAX (access to the COVID-19 vaccine) initiative improving the vaccination scenario in the Caribbean, Bayley also expects people in the ports to be immunized soon.
“In the coming months, we are going to move into an environment where the destination population is largely vaccinated, the crew members on our ship will be vaccinated and the vast majority of our guests will be vaccinated,” he explained, pointing out that kids might be vaccinated in a smaller percentage.
“I think we are moving into that environment so people can be comfortable when a cruise ship arrives,” he said.
New and stricter safety protocols, however, will still be in place, including regular testing for crew members and measures for the passengers.
“That will be guided by the CDC,” Bayley concluded.
Royal Caribbean plans to resume service in North America from June, sailing from the Bahamas and Bermuda.