Cruise Line Companies Working On New Health and Safety Standards In Face of COVID-19

Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have put together an advisory panel comprised of health and regulatory experts, which is intended to develop COVID-19 safety standards to protect passengers and crew members when cruise line operations to resume.

The two cruise lines giants announced the “Healthy Sail Panel” in a press release last week, claiming the panel will develop enhanced cruise health and safety recommendations in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the statement, the panel has been working for nearly a month to develop appropriate protocols based on input from health authorities and medical experts in the U.S. and abroad.

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Appointed as co-chairs of the panel are Governor Mike 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), have been appointed as co-chairs of the panel.

Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd and Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group stated the panel has been working tirelessly and anticipates being able to submit the best available public health, science and engineering insights to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other regulators by August 2020.

The initiative to increase infectious disease control aboard cruise lines comes amid one of the hardest economic periods the cruise line industry has ever experienced, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the COVID-19 outbreak first became widespread across the U.S. in late February, many cruise lines were caught off guard and unprepared to respond to a virus that could quickly spread among passengers and crew members aboard, causing numerous deaths and illnesses and stranding some ships at sea or under quarantine for long periods of time. Many experts claim cruise line services dramatically mishandled the response to the outbreak, putting profits over passenger safety.

A number of passengers have filed lawsuits, claiming the companies failed to adequately protect passengers or keep them informed of what was going on regarding the outbreak, and put them at significant risk.

One complaint was filed by Debra and Michael Dalton in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on March 13, against Princess Cruise Lines, indicating that the cruise line should have been more prepared, particularly after another ship in its fleet, the Diamond Princess, suffered an outbreak in early February, which resulted in at least 700 COVID-19 cases, leaving the ship stranded for some time in Japan.

The lawsuit accuses Princess Cruise Lines of placing profits ahead of the safety of its passengers, crew and the public in general. The Dalton’s lawsuit charges the cruise line with negligence and gross negligence and seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Royal Caribbean was one of the first cruise lines to have a wrongful death lawsuit filed against them, after 27-year-old Pujiyoko, a housekeeping employee from Indonesia contracted COVID-19 aboard the company’s Symphony of the Seas passenger line.

On March 14, 2020 the CDC and the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), the leading industry trade group issued a No Sail Order, suspending cruise ship operations from U.S. ports.That has since been extended to run through July 24, 2020. However, CLIA announced in mid-June that its members would continue the suspension of operations voluntarily until at least September 15, 2020.

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