At Saturday’s meeting between cruise line executives and Mike Pence, the vice president challenged the group to come up with a plan in 72 hours that would meaningfully enhance its protocols for mitigating or avoiding Covid-19 infections on cruise ship.

And 71 hours and 53 minutes after the meeting ended, CLIA submitted its plan.

The government doesn’t similarly have a timeline in which they must respond, said CLIA chairman Adam Goldstein in an interview with Travel Weekly, but the cruise lines will begin implementation of new protocols outlined in the plan as soon as possible.

“The shorthand for what we focused on is ‘prevention, detection and care,’” he said. 

“The first has to do with who is allowed to come onboard at the beginning of a cruise. We already had a number of protocols in place. For instance, if you had been to one of the countries listed [as level 3 by the Centers for Disease and Prevention], you wouldn’t be able to come on the ship.”

Goldstein said they looked for additional vulnerabilities and ways to address them “to maximize the chances that people boarding a ship stay healthy.”

The CLIA chair declined to go into specifics, saying he first wanted to give the government a chance to review and respond to the proposal. At a press conference Tuesday evening, Pence revealed one detail, saying that the cruise line proposal indicated they would provide airlift evacuation as part of enhanced procedures.

Regarding the second part, detection, the cruise lines asked for the ability to begin testing for Covid-19 onboard the ship. “We have first rate medical facilities and personnel on board, but no test kits,” he said. 

Analysis of the samples would still take place on land.

The third area addresses what transpires if there is a suspected or confirmed case onboard. “We thought about how we could be proactive and distinguish between risk levels, determining who might need to be quarantined or who might need to be sent to an urgent care facility,” Goldstein said.

The announcement by the State Department on Sunday recommending that all Americans avoid cruising took the industry by surprise, he said. They had expected a warning about “elderly travelers with serious, chronic underlying conditions” who might be especially vulnerable in any type of travel but were “surprised and disappointed” by the broadness of the caution.

The industry did not, he said, communicate their unhappiness to government officials. “We were putting all our energies into developing this plan, given the relatively short time frame we had. We didn’t engage about the specific of the advisories, given the time pressures.”

Although the government is under no obligation to respond within a specific time frame, he added, the vice president indicated it would be reviewed over the next 24 hours.

Asked about the reputational damage the industry has endured over the past few weeks, Goldstein replied that “this is a new and difficult situation, and it will take time to recover. But it’s an industry that has great resilience. We’ve displayed it before, and we’ll display it again.”

He said the cruise lines were aware that travel advisors are under tremendous pressure. “We’re all in this together and we’re all hurting -- cruise companies, agents, our suppliers. We value the contributions of travel advisors enormously, and understand they’re suffering, enduring extra expense, hassles, long hours. It’s happening to everybody.”

He said he was encouraged with the way that advisors and associations have advocated for cruise lines to elected officials about the value cruising represents, both to their business models and the experiences that consumers have. “It’s important. Ultimately, the government must do the best job of balancing the health, economic and consumer aspects.”

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