Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line have created the Healthy Sail Panel, a collaboration of top experts in public health, infectious disease, biosecurity, hospitality and maritime operations. The panel will develop recommendations for cruise lines to advance their public health response to COVID-19, improve safety, and achieve readiness for the safe resumption of operations. These recommendations will be made available to the entire travel and leisure industry; and the resulting work will be “open source” for any company or industry to adopt freely.
The companies have asked Governor Mike Leavitt, a three-term governor of Utah who served as an administrator of the EPA and is a former secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the FDA from 2017-2019, to serve as co-chairs of the newly formed group. An expert panel has been working for nearly a month and will offer its initial recommendations by the end of August.
“This unprecedented disease requires us to develop unprecedented standards in health and safety,” said Richard D. Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, in a statement. “Bringing aboard these respected experts to guide us forward demonstrates our commitment to protecting our guests, our crews and the communities we visit.”
Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruse Line partnering together is a unique collaboration. “We compete for the vacationing consumer’s business every day, but we never compete on health and safety standards,” said Frank Del Rio, president and CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, in a statement “While the cruise industry has always had rigorous health standards, the unique challenges posed by COVID-19 provide an opportunity to raise the bar even higher.”
Fain and Del Rio said they initiated the panel to assure the plans they will submit to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other regulators apply the best available public health, science and engineering insights. The work of the panel will be shared with the entire industry and regulators.
“Health and safety are the highest priority for all CLIA cruise line members as demonstrated by this initiative on the part of two of our largest members. We commend this and parallel efforts of all of our members, large and small, who are working tirelessly to develop appropriate protocols based on input from health authorities and medical experts in the U.S. and abroad,” said Kelly Craighead, president and CEO of Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA).
“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 No Sail Order,” said Governor Leavitt. “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.”
Dr. Gottlieb said, “We know that the public health issues that must be addressed are complex, 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.”
The panel’s members are globally recognized experts from various disciplines, including public health, infectious disease, biosecurity, hospitality and maritime operations. The members of the expert panel are:
Dr. Helene Gayle, CEO of the Chicago Community Trust, one of the nation’s leading community foundations; Dr. Julie L. Gerberding, executive vice president and chief patient officer for Merck and a former head of the CDC; Dr. Steven Hinrichs, 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 (NPHL), and Director of the University of Nebraska Center for Biosecurity; Dr. Michael Osterholm, a public health, infectious disease and biosecurity expert and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota; Dr. Stephen Ostroff, who was acting commissioner of the FDA from 2015-2016, and before that served as the FDA’s chief scientist at CDC; Dr. William Rutala who has experience medically managing a variety of diseases and extensive experience studying epidemiology and virology; Dr. Kate Walsh, dean at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University and E.M. Statler Professor; and Dean Walsh, who has extensive industry knowledge from serving as the former director of training and development for Nikko Hotels International, corporate training manager for the former Bristol Hotels, and senior auditor for Loews Corporation; Captain Patrik Dahlgren, senior vice president of global marine operations and fleet optimization for all Royal Caribbean Group global brands; and Robin Lindsay, executive VP of vessel operations for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
In addition, several experts will also serve as senior advisors to the panel, including Dr. Caitlin Rivers, who is 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, who is a 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. Dr. Kozarsky serves as an expert consultant to the Division of Global Migration and Quarantine in travelers’ health with the CDC.