Royal Caribbean Group (NYSE: RCL) and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (NYSE: NCLH) announced a collaboration to develop enhanced cruise health and safety standards in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The companies have asked Governor Mike Leavitt and Dr. Scott Gottlieb to serve as co-chairs of a newly formed group of experts called the “Healthy Sail Panel.” The panel is tasked with collaboratively developing recommendations for cruise lines to advance their public health response to COVID-19, improve safety, and achieve readiness for the safe resumption of operations.
The expert panel has been working for nearly a month and will offer its initial recommendations by the end of August. The cruise lines said its work will be “open source,” and could be freely adopted by any company or industry that would benefit from the group’s scientific and medical insights.
“This unprecedented disease requires us to develop unprecedented standards in health and safety,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group. “Bringing aboard these respected experts to guide us forward demonstrates our commitment to protecting our guests, our crews and the communities we visit.”
“We compete for the vacationing consumer’s business every day, but we never compete on health and safety standards,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. “While the cruise industry has always had rigorous health standards, the unique challenges posed by COVID-19 provide an opportunity to raise the bar even higher.”
“Health and safety are the highest priority for all CLIA cruise line members as demonstrated by this initiative on the part of two of our largest members. We commend this and parallel efforts of all of our members, large and small, who are working tirelessly to develop appropriate protocols based on input from health authorities and medical experts in the U.S. and abroad,” said Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
Fain and Del Rio said they initiated the panel to assure the plans they will submit to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other regulators apply the best available public health, science and engineering insights. The work of the panel will be shared with the entire industry and regulators.
“In convening the Healthy Sail Panel, we sought the participation of a diverse group of leading experts in areas of science and public health that are directly relevant to the considerations listed by the No Sail Order,” said Governor Leavitt. “We view our work as a profoundly important public health effort. The health and safety of passengers, crew, and the communities that cruise ships visit will be the principal focus of this project.”
Dr. Gottlieb said, “We know that the public health issues that must be addressed are complex, and in some areas, tackling them will require novel approaches. Our goal in assembling this team of leading experts was to develop best practices that can improve safety and provide a roadmap for reducing the risks of COVID-19.”
The panel is co-chaired by Governor Leavitt, former Secretary of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services (HHS), and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The panel’s members are globally recognized experts from various disciplines, including public health, infectious disease, biosecurity, hospitality and maritime operations.
The members of the expert panel are Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Helene Gayle, M.D., M.P.H, Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H., Steven Hinrichs, M.D., Michael Osterholm, M.D., Ph.D., Stephen Ostroff, M.D., William Rutala, Ph.D., M.S., M.P.H., Kate Walsh, Ph.D., Captain Patrik Dahlgren and Robin Lindsay (full details of panels members included in notes to editor).
In addition, several experts will also serve as senior advisors to the panel, including Dr. Caitlin Rivers, who is a faculty member and epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and an expert in emerging infectious disease epidemiology and outbreak science, and Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky, who is a professor emerita of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Emory University School of Medicine and an expert in pre-travel health advice and education, global health, and the epidemiology of travel related infections and infectious diseases. Dr. Kozarsky serves as an expert consultant to the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine in travelers’ health with the CDC.