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.

RCL and NCLH announce their joint 'Healthy Sail Panel' of experts

CRUISE Mike Leavitt and Scott Gottlieb.jpg
Mike Leavitt, left, is former secretary of the US Department Health and Human Services and Scott Gottlieb is former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration
Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which have been working together for some time on COVID-19 protocols, have gone public with the panel of high-level experts advising them.

Co-chairs Mike Leavitt and Scott Gottlieb

Gov. Mike Leavitt and Dr. Scott Gottlieb are serving as co-chairs of the companies' 'Healthy Sail Panel.' Leavitt is the former governor of Utah and former secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services and Gottlieb is former commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration.

The panel is tasked with developing recommendations for cruise lines to advance their public health response to COVID-19, improve safety and prepare to safely resume operations.

Open-source work, available to all

Initial recommendations are scheduled by the end of August. The cruise lines said their work will be 'open source' and can be freely adopted by any company or industry that would benefit from the group’s scientific and medical insights.

'Bringing aboard these respected experts to guide us forward demonstrates our commitment to protecting our guests, our crews and the communities we visit,' RCL Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said.

'We compete for the vacationing consumer’s business every day, but we never compete on health and safety standards,' added Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of NCLH.

Fain and Del Rio said they initiated the panel to assure the plans they will submit to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other regulators apply the best available public health, science and engineering insights. The panel's work will be shared with the industry and regulators.

'In convening the Healthy Sail Panel, we sought the participation of a diverse group of leading experts in areas of science and public health that are directly relevant to the considerations listed by the [CDC's] no-sail order,' Leavitt said. 'We view our work as a profoundly important public health effort. The health and safety of passengers, crew, and the communities that cruise ships visit will be the principal focus of this project.'

'The public health issues that must be addressed are complex,' Gottlieb added, 'and in some areas, tackling them will require novel approaches. Our goal in assembling this team of leading experts was to develop best practices that can improve safety and provide a roadmap for reducing the risks of COVID-19.'

Panel members

The panel includes Helene Gayle MD, MPH, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust and past president and CEO of CARE, a leading international humanitarian organization. She 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 health issues.

Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, is EVP and chief patient officer for Merck, as well as a former head of the CDC, who led more than 40 emergency responses against crises such as anthrax, SARS, bird flu, food-borne outbreaks and natural disasters.

Steven Hinrichs, MD, is professor and chair in the Department of Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and the director of the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory and director of the University of Nebraska Center for Biosecurity. He has been responsible for the development of a statewide program for the rapid identification of biological agents of mass destruction.

Michael Osterholm, MD, PhD, is one of the nation’s foremost experts in public health, infectious disease and biosecurity. As the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, he is an international leader on the world’s preparedness for pandemics.

Stephen Ostroff, MD, brings years of experience in public health, having served at high-level positions at the FDA and CDC. He was the acting commissioner of the FDA from 2015-2016, and before that served as the FDA’s chief scientist. Earlier work included deputy director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the CDC.

William Rutala, PhD, MS, MPH, has experience medically managing a variety of diseases and extensive experience studying epidemiology and virology, particularly managing outbreaks and emerging pathogens.

Kate Walsh, PhD, is dean at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University and E.M. Statler Professor. A professor of management, she is a leader in education for the global hospitality industry and a renowned expert in organizational service design, leadership and career development, as well as the impact of strategic human capital investments.

RCL's Patrik Dahlgren and NCLH's Robin Lindsay

Capt. Patrik Dahlgren is SVP global maritime operations and fleet optimization for Royal Caribbean's global brands. Robin Lindsay is EVP vessel operations for NCLH.

In addition, several experts will serve as senior advisers to the panel, including Dr. Caitlin Rivers, a faculty member and epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and an expert in emerging infectious disease epidemiology and outbreak science, and Dr. Phyllis Kozarsky, professor emerita of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Emory University School of Medicine and an expert in pre-travel health advice and education, global health and the epidemiology of travel-related infections and infectious diseases.

Kozarsky serves as an expert consultant to the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine in travelers’ health with the CDC.