Seatrade Cruise News is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

CLIA lines commit to universal COVID-19 testing for US-based cruising

In a travel-industry first, Cruise Lines International Association members today committed to 100% testing of passengers and crew for COVID-19 prior to embarkation.

This applies to lines subject to the US no-sail order.

'Unlike any other sector of travel, every cruise line member of CLIA will test every guest and crew member,' association Global Chairman Adam Goldstein stressed.

Plus mandatory masks, controlled excursions

Other requirements that will be uniform for CLIA member lines operating to/from the US are mandatory mask-wearing by all passengers and crew aboard ship and during shore excursions, whenever physical distancing cannot be maintained.

Physical distancing will be required in terminals, on board ships, on private islands and during excursions.

Lines have committed to air management and ventilation strategies to increase fresh air on board and, where feasible, to use enhanced filters and other technologies to mitigate risk.

Advance arrangements with private providers for shoreside quarantine/medical care

All lines will have risk-based response plans tailored for each ship to manage medical needs, dedicated cabin capacity allocated for isolation and advance arrangements with private providers for shoreside quarantine, medical facilities and transportation.

In addition, shore excursions will be permitted only according to the cruise operators’ prescribed protocols, with strict adherence required of all passengers and denial of re-boarding for those who don't comply.

Cruise lines have shared the findings of their expert consultants — a veritable army of world-class epidemiologists, public health and infectious disease specialists — and the resulting protocols with each other and through CLIA in the interest of making the entire industry safe to sail. These include the 'Health Sail Panel' recommendations, MSC Cruises' blue-ribbon panel, Carnival Corp. & plc's noted experts and the protocols of other member lines.

Everything serves to mitigate risk to make cruising safer.

Collaboration, not competition

'We all share these goals and will get there by collaboration, not competition,' said Richard Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group, during a CLIA news conference Monday. 

The protocols may change as knowledge advances, added Arnold Donald, president and CEO, Carnival Corp. & plc. A body of experience is being amassed as lines like Costa, AIDA, TUI, MSC and others resume sailing overseas.

The specific type of testing CLIA lines require is not mandated, however Pierfrancesco Vago, executive chairman of MSC Cruises, indicated the availability of fast, more reliable, less intrusive testing is 'accelerating.'

The European precedent

What's happened in Europe has given a 'foundation for optimism,' Goldstein said.

MSC Cruises has been operating for five weeks there, and Vago spoke to the news conference after just disembarking MSC Grandiosa at Civitavecchia (Rome).

'Guests are happy. They see these protocols are working,' he said. 'We have demonstrated cruising can take place in a safe way.'

Stateside restart still possible in 2020?

When cruising can begin in the US is not known, however the leaders are hoping there may still be a chance in 2020.

Donald estimated it would take 30 days from getting the green light to crew up a ship, conduct training and get other matters in order, a time-frame Vago agreed is reasonable.

Approval from US officials is still needed. All the leaders stressed a restart won't happen until they themselves are confident it's safe to do so.

'I think about my elderly mother and young grandchildren being on board,' said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

Gloria Guevara, president and CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Countil, applauded CLIA's protocols and said WTTC is an advocate for testing.

'We need to resume travel, especially to the 1,000 destinations around the world that receive cruises,' she added. Jobs are depending on it: 121m tourism jobs have been lost or impacted by the pandemic, Guevara said, a figure expected to grow to 197m by year's end.