Royal, Norwegian Enter Historic Collaboration

Two of the biggest names in cruise are collaborating for the first time ever on new health and safety standards for the cruise industry. Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings are working with leading public health experts to oversee the new protocols and standards aimed at keeping guests healthy and safe on their next cruise vacation. 

The collaboration is being called the “Healthy Sail Panel” and is tasked with collaboratively developing recommendations for cruise lines to advance their public health response to COVID-19, improve safety, and achieve readiness for the safe resumption of operations.

What is the Healthy Sail Panel?

The Healthy Sail Panel will be led by former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt, who was also the Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2005 to 2009, as well as Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration from 2017 until 2019. Already in operation for more than a month, the panel is expected to release their findings and recommendations sometime in August. 

“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.”

Though Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line compete for business, both understand that collaboration could help bolster an industry that’s fallen on hard times. As the saying goes, a rising tide lifts all boats. 

“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.”

“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, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. “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.”

The collaboration between the cruise lines drew praise from around the industry.

“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. 

Other members of the Healthy Sail Panel include: 

Helene Gayle, M.D., M.P.H. – CEO of the Chicago Community Trust

Julie Gerberding, M.D., M.P.H. – Executive Vice President and Chief Patient Officer for Merck and former Director of the CDC 

Steven Hinrichs, M.D.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

Michael Osterholm, M.D., Ph.D. –  Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota

Stephen Ostroff, M.D. –  Former Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration from 2015-2016, and before that served as the FDA’s chief scientist. Former chief medical officer in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition and Senior Public Health Advisor to the FDA’s Office of Foods and Veterinary Medicine and former Deputy Director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the CDC 

William Rutala, Ph.D., M.S., M.P.H. – An expert in the fields of epidemiology and virology, particularly managing outbreaks and emerging pathogens

Kate Walsh, Ph.D. – Dean at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University and E.M. Statler Professor

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.