Two Competing Cruise Lines Join Forces to Plan Return to Cruising

Like Macy’s and Gimbels in Miracle on 34th Street, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line are working together to plan a return to cruising.  Along with an esteemed panel of health experts, the goal is to get cruise ships sailing again.

Royal Caribbean ship return to cruising in Alaska in 2021

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The competing cruise lines’ CEOs put differences aside and are on a shared mission.  They’ve formed the “Healthy Sail Panel” that includes an ensemble of top public health experts and doctors from across the country.

How Healthy Sail Panel plans a return to cruising amid a pandemic

Their objective is to develop enhanced health and safety protocols for their cruise lines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The panel of experts are well-respected for their knowledge and contributions to public health, infectious disease and biosecurity.

Heading up the Healthy Sail Panel as co-chairs are two once-prominent Republican government officials. 

Mike Leavitt – Former Governor of Utah also served as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Secretary of Health and Human Services for George W. Bush.  He is the founder of Leavitt Partners, an investment support firm.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb – Former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (R) 2017 – 2019 for Donald Trump.  While currently involved in improving public, he also serves on the boards of Pfizer other bio pharmaceutical companies.

Together, they oversee the new panel of experts whose goal is to develop recommendations for cruise lines to get back to the business of cruising as safely as possible while acknowledging the global impact of COVID-19.

A cruise restart depends on the CDC

Although the panel has been together for nearly a month, it won’t be until the end of August that their first health and safety recommendations will be announced.

According to the press release, the panel’s work will be “open source,” and available to any interested company or industry that would “benefit from the group’s scientific and medical insights.”

Royal Caribbean Group’s Richard Fain and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Frank Del Rio created the panel so that the return-to-cruising plans they submit to the CDC and other regulators will “apply the best available public health, science and engineering insights.”

In other words, their goal is to develop the best plans of action so the CDC will drop their No Sail Order implemented nearly four months ago. And a return to cruising, though somewhat different than before the pandemic, will finally begin again.

“This unprecedented disease requires us to develop unprecedented standards in health and safety,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group. “Bringing aboard these respected experts to guide us forward demonstrates our commitment to protecting our guests, our crews and the communities we visit.”

Meet The “Healthy Sail Panel” of Experts

On board to plan the much-needed return to cruising are renown experts in their fields and then some.  

Helene Gayle, M.D., M.P.H. – Dr. Gayle is CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, a prominent community foundation. Dr. Gayle spent 20 years with the CDC, with a focus on HIV/AIDS. She worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, directing programs on HIV/AIDS and global health concerns.

Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H. – Dr. Julie L. Gerberding is Executive Vice President and Chief Patient Officer for Merck.  She was a former head of the CDC and a world-renowned public health expert.  An advocate for new medicines and vaccines, and reduce maternal mortality.

Steven Hinrichs, M.D. – Dr. Steven Hinrichs is Professor and Chair in the Department of Pathology and Microbiology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

Michael Osterholm, M.D., Ph.D. – Leading expert in public health, infectious disease and biosecurity. He is also the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.  He has also been appointed to the National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity and the World Economic Forum’s Working Group on Pandemics.

Stephen Ostroff, M.D.  – Dr. Ostroff was the Acting Commissioner of the FDA from 2015-2016 and the CDC. At the CDC, he focused on emerging infectious diseases, food safety and coordination of complex outbreak response.

Also on the panel are William Rutala, Ph.D., M.S., M.P.H. with a background of study on  epidemiology and virology, particularly managing outbreaks and emerging pathogens.  Kate Walsh, Ph.D., Dean at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University.

On the nautical team is Captain Patrik Dahlgren, Senior Vice President of Global Marine Operations and Fleet Optimization for all Royal Caribbean Group global brands.

Robin Lindsay, Executive Vice President of Vessel Operations for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

Let’s hope that the Healthy Sail Panel plays a significant role to help Royal Caribbean and Norwegian return to cruising soon.  And other cruise lines will benefit from the group’s willingness to share their results.  Sounds like a plan.  

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