Europe lines contained Covid cases and kept cruises going, Fain says

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A Phocuswright Conference 2020 panel from left, Arnie Weissmann of Travel Weekly, Mike Leavitt, a former head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a co-chairman on the Healthy Sail Panel,  and Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain.
A Phocuswright Conference 2020 panel from left, Arnie Weissmann of Travel Weekly, Mike Leavitt, a former head of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a co-chairman on the Healthy Sail Panel, and Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO Richard Fain said that the cruise lines that launched early operations in Europe have successfully contained Covid-19 cases that came onboard, preventing them from becoming outbreaks and allowing the cruises to continue.

Speaking at the Phocuswright Conference 2020 today, Fain spoke about Royal's experience with its two jointly-owned German brands, Hapag-Lloyd and Tui Cruises, as well as other lines that launched service starting in August.

"We've had tens of thousands of guests on our ships and other ships in Europe, and yes there have been cases, but they have been individual cases or family groups, and they then are isolated," he said. "This is very similar to the success you've seen in so much of Asia where when they have incidents and they isolate the incidents instead of simply closing down society. And that's the objective on the ship." 

Fain said that the handling of Covid cases on ships was a major focus of both the CDC and the Healthy Sail Panel of experts assembled by Royal and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, because it is clear that it will be impossible to 100% prevent Covid from coming onboard.

"We've been explicit about this: you can't eliminate Covid-19 in society, and you can't totally eliminate it on a cruise ship," he said. "The objective wasn't to eliminate it; it was to make the cruise ship safer than you are in your hometown, and if there is a case it remains a case rather than an outbreak."

Also speaking at Phocuswright, was one of the Healthy Sail Panel's co-chairmen, Mike Leavitt, a three-term governor of Utah and former secretary of the U.S. Department Health and Human Services, who said that the CDC's act of doing away with the No Sail Order and replacing it with a pathway to the resumption of cruising was a response to Healthy Sail Panel's report. And while the agency hasn't formally responded to the panel's recommendations, he said "the CDC has been very complimentary" and has so far only expressed "minor differences" with the panel's recommendations.

Leavitt said the report's 74 recommendations would improve health and safety for the greater travel industry and the places people visit around the world.

"We are also helping dozens and dozens of port cities, contractors in each stops, and improving the level of public health not just in their community but also in their country," he said. "This will have a ripple effect into the entire industry and a substantial number of communities."

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