Royal Caribbean: U.S. Cruise Service Start By July Realistic

“We believe we are now seeing a clear way forward to safe cruising in the near future,” said Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of the Royal Caribbean Group, on Thursday’s business update call.

Citing the letter that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released last night, modifying is requirements for the industry’s return to service, Fain said it represented a significant improvement in their dialogue with the CDC.

Added Michael Bayley, CEO and president of the Royal Caribbean International brand: “With what (CDC letter) we received last night July looks very realistic (for restarting cruises in North America).”

As for the Alaska season, Fain noted there are uncertainties and that service resumption may require a waiver from the Passenger Vessels Service Act as long as Canada will not allow ship calls. Alternatively, Canada could allow technical calls.

“Given the momentum, there is reason for optimism,” he added.

“We have had a very constructive dialogue with the CDC and other government agencies over the past few weeks,” Fain continued. “Many elements of the CSO (Conditional Sail Order) were unrealistic. The letter was very encouraging with multiple corrections to the existing CSO, elements that were very challenging. Certainly, vaccinations were a major element of change.”

Fain also pointed out that the company’s brands in Asia and Europe have carried some 125,000 passengers since the shutdown with only 21 COVID-19 cases and that has been without the benefit of vaccinations.

“With cruise ships we can control the environment and we have already demonstrated that we can do that,” Fain said. 

There are still some uncertainties, however, and Bayley noted that he hopes to see further clarifications in the next few days and weeks.

According to the CDC, ships can reportedly bypass the simulated test voyages it had required before and move to sailings with paying passengers if 98 percent of crew and 95 percent of passengers are fully vaccinated. It will also respond to applications for simulated voyages within five days rather than 60 days as previously suggested.

Commented Bayley: “As soon as we have port plans lined up, we can now apply to the CDC for permission to sail. The process has improved considerably.”

The CDC also stated it will update its testing and quarantine requirements to align with it guidance for fully vaccinated people.

The CDC letter comes as pressure has been mounting on the agency through public opinion, legislative initiatives and lawsuits.

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