Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings
Ltd. (NCLH) are working together to develop health and safety protocols for the
cruise industry in response to the global Covid-19 pandemic.
The two lines assembled a group, co-chaired by Mike Leavitt
and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, called the “Healthy Sail Panel,” which is tasked with
developing recommendations for cruise lines to advance a public health response
to Covid-19, improve safety, and achieve readiness for the safe resumption of
Leavitt was a three-term governor of Utah and the secretary
of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services for the George W. Bush
administration. Gottlieb is a former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug
The panel, which has already been working for nearly a
month, plans to offer initial recommendations by the end of August. The two
cruise lines say its work will be “open source” and that any company or
industry can use its findings, which will be shared with the entire industry as
well as regulators.
“We compete for the vacationing consumer’s business every
day, but we never compete on health and safety standards,” said Frank Del Rio,
CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings. “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.”
Del Rio and Royal Caribbean Cruises CEO Richard Fain said
they initiated the panel to assure the plans submitted to the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other regulatory agencies apply “the
best available public health, science and engineering insights.”
In a YouTube video hosted by Fain, Leavitt said that
cruising represents a “microcosm” of the challenges that society faces, given
that cruise ships have shops, recreational facilities, hotels, restaurant and
casinos. When asked why it would take so long to complete its recommendations,
Leavitt said, “It’s a complex subject.”
“We want to make sure we do what can be done to eliminate
risk,” he said. “We need to lean to adapt to this.”
Leavitt said he was impressed that the cruise industry was
“The idea that the industry does not compete on safety, it
wants everyone to have these ideas, makes it the perfect laboratory,” he said. “Everyone
is not sitting at the table, but we’ve invited everyone to contribute ideas and we
will give them every work product we develop because we want the industry to
Leavitt is confident the findings will enable cruising to
“We are going to cruise again, and we’ll cruise safely
again,” he said.
The panel’s members are:
• Dr. Helene Gayle, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust and former
CEO of CARE, a leading international humanitarian organization. Gayle spent 20
years with the CDC, working primarily on HIV/AIDS, and worked at the Bill &
Melinda Gates Foundation, directing programs on HIV/AIDS and other global
• Dr. Julie Gerberding, executive vice for Merck, leading
all aspects of strategic communications, global public policy, population
health and patient engagement. Gerberding is a former director of the CDC,
where she led the responses to anthrax, SARS and bird flu.
• Dr. Steven Hinrichs, professor in the Department of
Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in
Omaha, director of the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory and director of the
University of Nebraska Center for Biosecurity.
• Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for
Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota and a
frequent consultant to the World Health Organization, the National Institutes
of Health, the FDA, the U.S. Department of Defense and the CDC.
• Dr. Stephen Ostroff, former acting commissioner of the Food
and Drug Administration and the FDA’s chief scientist and former deputy
director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the CDC, where he
was also acting director of CDC’s Select Agent Program.
• Dr. William Rutala, professor for the Division of
Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine and
director of the Hospital Epidemiology, Occupational Health and Safety Program
at the University of North Carolina Health Care System.
• Kate Walsh, dean of the School of Hotel Administration at
Cornell University and former director of training and development for Nikko
Hotels International, corporate training manager for the former Bristol Hotels,
and senior auditor for Loews Corp.
• Capt. Patrik Dahlgren, senior vice president of global
marine operations and fleet optimization for all Royal Caribbean brands.
• Robin Lindsay, executive vice president of vessel
operations for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.