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Royal Caribbean Group CEO says no decision yet if passengers will need to get vaccine to cruise

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain posted a new video update talking about a variety of topics, including if passengers will be required to get the Covid-19 vaccine to sail.

The debate among cruise fans of if cruise lines will or will not require a vaccine to cruise has been a hot topic, and it comes on the heels of Royal Caribbean announcing Odyssey of the Seas will sail from Israel this summer and require all guests to have the vaccine.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean will debut new Odyssey of the Seas cruise ship sailing from Israel

Mr. Fain repeated the fact no decision has been made yet on if Royal Caribbean will require its guests to be vaccinated in order to cruise.

“So this raises the question of whether we will require vaccines on all of our sailings. The answer is, we don’t know yet.”

Mr. Fain is a major support of the vaccines, and believes they are the fastest and best method to get Covid-19 under control.

He added that all Royal Caribbean crew members will be vaccinated as well.

“Whether we will require vaccines of all of our guests on all of our ships hasn’t been decided yet, but we are prepared to go where the science leads us.”

The overwhelming message in his eight minute long video is not to prematurely start going back to normal and let a resurgence in the virus disrupt all the progress that has been made so far.

“These are the most hopeful days we have had in a long time. But as we get closer to our goal, we inevitably also get more impatient to reach it.”

“I know that we thought we were closer to the end before, but the vaccines really have changed the game. And despite all the blows our industry has taken, it is clear that there will be a huge demand when we open our doors.”

Mr. Fain sees “a rapid and dramatic decline in cases and fatalities”, which he alluded to in his November update.

“It’s exactly what we need to reopen society. However, this is the current trend and we need to be careful that we don’t screw it up.”

Mr. Fain sees the key to getting cruise ships sailing again is getting the disease under control, and the vaccines are the “ultimate weapon” to reach that goal.

Speaking of ships restarting, Mr. Fain reiterated cruise ships will be phased back into service slowly, instead of the entire fleet coming back at once.

“You will hear a growing cacophony of happy vacationers who can finally leave their homes as we gradually phase in more and more cruises.”

So far Odyssey of the Seas is the first ship to require the vaccine for its sailings from Israel. Cruises on Quantum of the Seas from Singapore do not require the vaccine.

None of the other major mainstream cruise lines have committed to any decision on requiring a vaccine either, although some are also requiring their crew members to be vaccinated.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: February 28, 2021

Happy Sunday, and I hope you had a great week. It was a busy week of Royal Caribbean fun, and I have a round-up of all of it in this hand-dandy blog post.

We might finally be getting close to test sailings beginning.

Royal Caribbean International President and CEO Michael Bayley told Wall Street investors during an earnings call an update on where things stand with the CDC.

Mr. Bayley said that Royal Caribbean has been in “regular communication” with the CDC and expects to get technical instructions on what each ship needs to do in order to prepare itself for test cruises.

“We’re literally expecting the technical specifications any day soon,” Mr. Bayley told investors.

Royal Caribbean News

New RCB Video: How to get a FREE Royal Caribbean cruise

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — How to get a FREE Royal Caribbean cruise — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 395th episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available featuring a look at Bronwynn’s sailing to the ABC islands and Labadee.

In this episode, we have a cruise story from Navigator of the Seas in 2017 on a fantastic itinerary to the Southern Caribbean.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

Royal Caribbean releases Short Caribbean 2022-2023 cruise sailings

Royal Caribbean has released its Short Caribbean sailings for Summer 2022 – Winter 2023, which are now available for booking.

These new getaway cruises have more ships sailing with more frequent sailings in 2022-2023 across eight ships from Florida and Texas.

The most noticeable change for these short sailings is all three Freedom Class cruise ships will sail from Florida.

New study shows “exceptionally low” risk of airborne particles on cruise ships

A recent study has debunked yet another stereotype about cruises, this time about the air circulation onboard.

An independent study conducted by University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) on Oasis of the Seas looked at air flow, and movement of particulate matter indoors.

The study was conducted in July 2020 right in the middle of the global health crisis to evaluate how a cruise ship’s HVAC system worked and what risks were posed to guests and crew members.

The study found the risk associated with transmission of airborne particles between spaces, through the HVAC system, is exceptionally low and undetectable both in the air and on surfaces.

How they tested

The team of five medical scientists focused on the effectiveness and efficiency of ship air management strategies – ventilation, filtration and supply – and examined air flow across different areas of the ship, including guest staterooms, crew staterooms, lounges and other public spaces. 

They looked at guest staterooms, the casino, ice rink, comedy club, and crew quarters, and proposed to release billions of microspheres – simulating SARS-CoV-2 aerosols – to be released in separate locations across the ship.

The microspheres used in this study are spherical particles made of a plastic polymer that are coated with unique DNA barcodes so that they can be easily detected.

In this study, no exchange of aerosol particles was observed between spaces only connected by the ventilation system (such as adjacent staterooms, both crew and guest), indicating that the likelihood of aerosol exchange between adjacent rooms is very unlikely

In public spaces, the casino performed the best, since it has built-in filtering for tobacco smoke.  Nonetheless, all venues showed no evidence of aerosol or surface contamination. In general, particles released in the public areas were not observable after 15 minutes, likely due to dilution in the large spaces.

The conclusion was transmission of aerosol particles between spaces, through the ventilation system, to be undetectable on surfaces and in the air. 

Based on their findings, Royal Caribbean has adopted a few changes to add even more protection for anyone onboard.

  • Adjusting shipboard settings to allow for the maximum air changes per hour
    •  Incoming air is filtered twice when it comes into the ship, including through a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) 13 filter
    • It then branches out across the ship through the system to be filtered again in local areas, say your stateroom or the theater
  • Upgrading to MERV 13 filters throughout the system
  • Equipped its medical facilities with an independent ventilation system and has added HEPA filters for additional precaution
  • Ocean air is continuously drawn in from one side of the ship for cooling and ventilation as the existing air is exhausted on the opposite side of the ship
    • This constant intake of fresh air, combined with the other robust components of the HVAC system, allows for up to 12 air changes an hour in staterooms and 15-20 changes in public venues
    • This frequency is twice more than what is recommended for land-based public venues by ASHRAE, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers. 

The MERV rating of a filter refers to how much it can filter particles in the air, with a higher number meaning a higher level of filtration.  The MERV ratings range between 1 and 20. A MERV rating of 13-16 is considered hospital level air quality.

A team of five medical scientists specializing in bioaerosols, led by Josh Santarpia, PhD. – associate professor, pathology and microbiology, UNMC; and research director, chemical and biological programs, NSRI – were called on to understand in detail the role of HVAC systems in spreading airborne particles on cruise ships. 

Royal Caribbean Group CEO talks when we can start having serious conversations to restart

The one dominant question in the cruise industry is when will cruise ships be able to sail again.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain spoke to CNBC following his company’s fourth quarter 2020 earnings call about a variety of topics, but when cruises might restart was the primary concern.

While Royal Caribbean Group reported another billion dollar loss, they were quite pleased with strong demand for cruises in the second half of 2021 and into 2022.

CNBC Global Markets Reporter Seema Mody put it bluntly when she said, “all the demand in the world is no help. Richard, if the industry is not given the clearance from the CDC.”

Mr. Fain pointed to restarting cruises will take a lot, and both the cruise industry and the CDC are looking at a variety of factors before cruises can restart.

“We just we’re in the midst of a huge surge…over the end of last year,” Mr. Fain explained. “Nobody was going to suggest that we start operating in that kind of environment.”

“But as that’s coming down, as the numbers get better, as the prevalence in society gets better, as the vaccine gets out there more, I think that’s when we can start having serious conversations to restart.”

Read moreRoyal Caribbean expecting CDC’s technical instructions “any day”

So where is that point, exactly?

Mr. Fain said there is no single percentage or data point to look for, “I think the CDC, and we ourselves and our healthy sales panel, would say no one statistic is the determining factor.”

“Unfortunately, there’s no one magic threshold that says, ‘now is the day. If we reach this point, we can go.'”

Read moreRoyal Caribbean talks vaccine impact, Cruises to Europe in 2021, Cuba and more

Passengers worst fear: infection or isolated?

Richard Fain also talked about the distinction between passengers fearing getting infected versus being stuck on a cruise ship as the result of a case.

“People aren’t so much worried about getting sick on a ship, they’re worried that somebody else gets sick and that that destroys their whole vacation.

“That’s why the protocols that we’ve come up with, a big focus of them, is how do we isolate cases when we have a case because there will be cases on the ship just as there are always cases in society. Our job is to make sure that it stays cases and doesn’t become an outbreak.”

“That’s a lot of our discussion with the with the CDC and others, and that the vaccines are a big part of that.”

Can Royal Caribbean borrow even more money?

Seema Mody ended the interview by asking Richard Fain does Royal Caribbean have more resources to borrow if the shutdown continues.

“We have a quiver of things full of actions we could take if we needed.”

“We have been methodical about this and always looking fairly far out so that we’re not dealing with an imminent issue. We always want to be dealing with if something goes wrong, we have time to fix it.”

“And in this case, we’ve built up enough of our liquidity. We’ve built up enough of our ammunition so that we have the luxury of not having to deal with the crisis, but to gradually improve our liquidity, our financial health, because we want to get back to investment grade as quickly as we can.”

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: February 14, 2021

Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope your day is filled with chocolate, flowers and a Royal Caribbean cruise! We are spreading the Royal Caribbean love with our look at all the Royal Caribbean news from this week.

It looks like Royal Caribbean will work to give all of its crew members COVID-19 vaccines.

An email was sent to crew members to inform them that Royal Caribbean expects to vaccinate its crew once sailings restart.

The cruise line does not yet know how or when the vaccine would be distributed to crew members, as it may depend on the country of residence, the timing of the next contract and whether the crew is already on board or traveling. 

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 393rd  episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available and we’re talking about Royal Caribbean’s Royal Promenade

In this episode, Hayley shares her cruise story celebrating her wedding anniversary in Alaska.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

New RCB Video: Reacting to “You Should Forget 2021 Cruises” advice

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — Reacting to “You Should Forget 2021 Cruises” advice — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Here are the two port projects Royal Caribbean intends to complete

The global health crisis has wreaked havoc on Royal Caribbean’s plans for the next few years, but at least two projects will still continue.

Port of Galveston Port Director Rodger Rees confirmed the two projects Royal Caribbean told him will move ahead in 2021.

Despite the major setbacks financially, Royal Caribbean remains committed to the Port of Galveston cruise terminal project, as well as the Freeport, Bahamas port expansion.

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: February 7, 2020

Happy weekend! We hope you are in the midst of a wonderful weekend full of things to do to pass the time between cruises.  We have a summary of all of this week’s Royal Caribbean news in case you missed any of it!

The cruise world was surprised when Canada announced a year-long ban on cruise ships from its waters.

Canada’s Minister of Transport announced all cruise vessels are banned from Canadian waters until February 28, 2022.

According to Canada’s government, cruise ships, “pose a risk to our health care systems.”

Not only does the ban affect Alaska cruises, but New England cruises in the fall visit Canadian ports as well during the popular leaf peeping season.

Just like Alaska cruises, New England cruises rely on a stop in Canada to make the visit legal under U.S. law.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 392nd episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available and this week, Matt talks about cruise ship rumors he hears all the time these days.

Having seen so many of these discussions on social media, there seems to be a few of these “predictions” that are passed around as the truth. Here is a list of some commonly shared cruise ship rumors that have not been verified or announced by Royal Caribbean.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

New RCB Video: Unwritten rules of going on a cruise ship

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — Unwritten rules of going on a cruise ship — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO admits he still doesn’t know when cruises will resume

Not even the head of Royal Caribbean Group is sure when cruises will restart in great numbers.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain provided a new video update where he talked about the current state of affairs related to the global health crisis, as well as addressing cruises resuming.

Towards the end of this new video update, he tackled the question he is most commonly asked: “when cruising will resume in strength?”.

Royal Caribbean Group CEO admits he still doesnt know when cruises will resume in strength

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain provided a new video update where he talked about the current state of affairs related to the global health crisis, as well as addressing cruises resuming.

Mr. Fain has produced a number of video updates during the cruise industry shutdown that are produced for travel agents, but they provide insight for the public.

Towards the end of this new video update, he tackled the question he is most commonly asked: “when cruising will resume in strength?”.

His answer is no one yet knows for certain.

“My answer is consistently, I don’t know. But more recently, my answer has been, I don’t know, but that’s the good direction to be going in.”

Mr. Fain sees promise in the fact Quantum of the Seas has been able to restart operations successfully in Singapore for a few months, and other cruise lines have been sailing in Europe.

“It’s going to take a while and we just need to be patient.”

“But it is happening and these early cruises are going to give us information that will help inform how we can operate safely and that’s going to give us all confidence in an earlier and safer restart.”

Mr. Fain sees the vaccine and new health protocols as a key component to moving towards a restart, and in the short term, protecting crew members who are still working onboard their cruise ships.

“The vaccines and other steps we are taking are also important to protect the crew. In the beginning, it was really very difficult to ensure that the crew members were virus free. But the new vaccines, testing and other steps are giving us the opportunity to protect them as never before.”

Despite the obstacles the cruise industry faces, as well as an extremely long shutdown, Mr. Fain believes there is tremendous demand for cruises.

“People clearly have pent up demand and we can’t wait to satisfy it.”

“Every day we see signs that people want to get out and away. That pressure will help us once we can reopen and restart.”

CDC will require everyone to wear face masks on cruise ships

When cruises restart, passengers onboard will have to wear a mask.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) passed a new order that requires people to wear masks on public transportation.

“Persons must wear masks over the mouth and nose when traveling on conveyances into and within the United States. Persons must also wear masks at transportation hubs as defined in this Order.”

The order pertains to forms of travel including aircraft, train, road vehicle, vessel or other means of transport.

The order goes into effect as of February 1, 2021.

It applies within any state, locality, territory, with the exceptions of while eating, drinking, or taking medication, for brief periods.

Children under 2 years old are exempt, as well as a person with a disability who cannot wear a mask, or cannot safely wear a mask, because of the disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Cruise lines must provide adequate notice of the rule and disembarking any person who refuses to comply. Moreover, guests should be made aware that Federal law requires wearing a mask on the conveyance and failure to comply constitutes a violation of Federal law.

The new rules require what the cruise lines have already agreed to do on their own.

The Healthy Sail Panel proposed passengers and crew members wear face masks on cruise ships back in September 2020.

Read moreRoyal Caribbean new cruise ship health protocols include masks, social distancing, testing and more

Royal Caribbean specified in its rules face masks will be required on its cruise ships when they return to service, with exceptions similar to what the CDC outlined.

Specifically, Royal Caribbean says guests should wear face masks in nearly all public settings regardless of physical distancing measures but will not be required to wear face masks in their own stateroom.

There are exceptions, however, such as dining venues, where guests can eat and drink without face masks while seated, provided physical distancing is observed. All restaurant seating will be arranged to allow for physical distancing, so guests can eat and drink without face masks while seated, and tables and chairs will be disinfected.

Read moreWhere and when will you have to wear a mask on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Also, guests should not wear masks while engaged in activities that may cause the mask to become wet, like when swimming in our pools, or when participating in strenuous activities, such as jogging, running, or fitness classes at the Vitality Spa and Fitness Center.

Face masks will be required at all bars or nightclubs when not seated and actively eating or drinking with your party. 

Crew members will wear masks at all times, and gloves.

It is unclear yet if Royal Caribbean will change any of these protocols based on this new order.

The rationale for the new rule is aimed at ensuring people in close contact are not putting the public health at risk.

“Traveling on multi-person conveyances increases a person’s risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 by bringing persons in close contact with others, often for prolonged periods, and exposing them to frequently touched surfaces.

“Air travel often requires spending time in security lines and crowded airport terminals. Social distancing may be difficult if not impossible on flights. People may not be able to distance themselves by the recommended 6 feet from individuals seated nearby or those standing in or passing through the aircraft’s aisles.”

Read more5 ways cruise ships have tougher COVID-19 protocols than airplanes

“Travel by bus, train, vessel, and other conveyances used for international, interstate, or intrastate transportation pose similar challenges.”

The CDC believes using masks along with other preventive measures, including social distancing, frequent handwashing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched
surfaces, is one of the most effective strategies available for reducing COVID-19 transmission.

More information

Royal Caribbean Post Round-Up: January 31, 2021

Happy weekend! We hope you are enjoying a wonderful and relaxing weekend and managing to stay warm. Now it is time to sit back with a cuppa tea or java, and check out the latest in Royal Caribbean cruise news.

Many Royal Caribbean fans were happy to hear that the cruise line will offer more time to take advantage of extra customer loyalty points.

Royal Caribbean announced it has extended the Loyalty 2X Points benefit so that it applies to bookings made between now and June 30, 2021 for cruises sailing through September 30, 2022.

Double points means guests earn twice the amount of points per night than usual in the Crown and Anchor Society.

Royal Caribbean News

Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast

The 391st episode of the Royal Caribbean Blog Podcast is now available, where Jason tells us about his first cruise on Harmony of the Seas.

This week’s cruise story is of Jason’s first time checking out Harmony of the Seas and what he thought of going on this Oasis Class ship.

Please feel free to subscribe via iTunes or RSS, and head over to rate and review the podcast on iTunes if you can! We’d appreciate it.

New RCB Video: Wall Street thinks no cruises until late 2021!

Have you subscribed to the Royal Caribbean Blog YouTube Channel? We share some great videos there regularly, all about taking a Royal Caribbean cruise! This week, we are sharing our latest video — Wall Street thinks no cruises until late 2021! — and don’t forget to subscribe here.

Which Royal Caribbean cruise ship will you never sail on again?

Is there a cruise ship you have sailed on that you just would not go back on again?

Not every ship will necessarily be everyone’s cup of tea. Luckily, the fleet of cruise ships is large enough that there is bound to be a good fit for just about anyone.

I reached out to our readers on our Facebook page to ask: is there a cruise ship you’ve been on that you would never go back on again? If so, which one and why?

Where does the poop go on a cruise ship?

Have you ever wondered where all the waste on a cruise ship goes?

Once while I was relaxing in my stateroom on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, my daughter asked where her poop went after she flushed the toilet and it is actually a good question.

Cruise ships are often described as floating cities, and their waste management is no different than a small municipality.

With thousands of people onboard a ship, there is a need for a sophisticated approach to managing where everything goes once people are done with it, from human waste to recycling to leftover food.

In fact, cruise lines are highly-regulated and work with environmental government agencies to ensure their waste practices are approved. These protocols ensure ships comply with strict requirements set out by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other regional and national authorities with a responsibility to protect the environment. 

Trash

Royal Caribbean touts the fact Symphony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, is actually a zero-landfill ship.  This means the ship can deal with their own waste, ranging all the way from recycling to water filtration.

Cruise ships like Symphony have a designated waste and recycling center. There are separate teams to deal with each incoming recyclable: glass, cardboard, plastic, and metal.

The ship’s waste incineration room is manned twenty four hours a day by crew members who differentiate glass based on its color: green, brown and white.

It is then sent for being crushed.

The ship has an incinerator, as well as a compactor for processing plastic waste. The compactor crushes approximately 528 gallons of water bottles.

Once the ship returns to port, it can then transport plastic, aluminum, paper, and glass for recycling through a third party vendor.

In 2018, Royal Caribbean recycled 43.7 million pounds of waste.

Food

If you have been on a cruise ship, you have noticed there is always plenty of uneaten food.  Either food people leave on their plates, or food that is never picked up from the buffet or ordered at a restaurant.

The chefs on Symphony of the Seas segregate food scraps into different buckets, which is then put into a big pipe that leads to the ship’s hydro-processor for incineration.

Incinerating food waste reduces the volume of the leftover food waste, and that reduces the ship’s weight and thus, fuel needed by the ship.

Where your poop goes

Time to tackle my daughter’s question of where your poop, shower water, and any other wastewater goes.

Cruise ships have a water-treatment system onboard, similar to your hometown. With over 7,000 passengers and crew, Symphony of the Seas generates 210,000 gallons of black water and one million gallons of grey water during a one week cruise. 

All the wastewater onboard is collected and absolutely nothing goes overboard unless it is first run through a treatment plant. 

Water is divided into three categories:

  • Grey water: sinks, laundries, and drains
  • Black water: galleys and toilets
  • Bilge water: oils released from equipment in engine compartments that collect at the bottom of the vessel.

Wastewater is run through the advanced wastewater-purification plant on the ship, which is above the US federal standard for purified water.

When black water enters the integrated treatment system, it first passes into a bioreactor ‘aeration chamber’ which is filled with bacteria that break down organic contaminants dissolved in the wastewater.

The sewage then enters a membrane filtration system to further filter impurities. In the ‘settlement chamber’, dense substances sink to the bottom and the water floats to the top. The residual sludgy material is repeatedly returned for reprocessing. At the end of the cycles the remaining material is disposed of in low-emission incinerators. 

Finally, the clean sewage enters the ‘disinfection chamber’ where any remaining pathogens are sterilized by UV radiation. This leaves clean, safe and bacteria-free water, which is transferred to a storage tank until it can be discharged. 

Believe it or not, this water is near tap-water quality.   The water is either kept on board or discharged overboard when the cruise ship is at sea with a certain distance from land in order to meet the different local and international regulations.  The ability to discharge water depends on where the ship is located, as some oceans and areas prohibit the practice.  

Grey water can be discharged far out to sea after minimal treatment because it rarely includes harmful bacteria. Just like black water, it can only be discharged at sea in areas that are not designated environmentally sensitive regions.