Championing a resilient cruise industry

Kelly Craighead explains how CLIA is helping its members to navigate the Covid-19 crisis

Championing a resilient cruise industry
CLIA has worked with various partners to help cruise lines safely repatriate crew members to their home countries

By Alex Smith |

Please give us an update on the state of the cruise industry and how Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has helped its cruise line partners to navigate the Covid-19 crisis?

CLIA and its ocean-going cruise line members are working to identify Covid-19 protocols based on the advice and clearance of governments, health authorities and medical experts around the world. We’re taking a holistic approach to planning for Covid-19 safety when sailing is allowed, which would ideally entail a door-to-door strategy beginning at the time of booking and ending when guests return home.

Although a fully defined global plan for resumption of cruising has not yet been finalised, cruise lines are working locally with ports and destinations so that limited cruise itineraries are designed with public health considerations and pre-arranged contingency plans as a top priority. The cruise community remains actively engaged with our partners at the local, national and international levels to facilitate alignment and inform cruise industry protocols as they advance through the planning process.

This collective work will provide the groundwork for creation of a mandatory CLIA member policy regarding Covid-19. Once the final policy is established, it will be reflected in CLIA’s compendium of policies that all CLIA ocean-going cruise line members must agree to implement.

How have you been working with cruise lines, ports, governments and other authorities to protect the physical health and mental wellbeing of crew members who have remained onboard ships?

Crew members are essential workers – they are key to the economy, the foundation of every memorable cruise vacation experience and, as we begin to sail again, they are critical to our return of operations. Their care for passengers was more critical than ever as CLIA ocean-going member cruise ships returned to port following the worldwide suspension of cruise operations in March. The right of seafarers to be repatriated to their home country is fundamental, and we’re grateful to the ports and governments that allowed access and safe harbour for cruise ships so these seafarers could complete their journeys home. We ask for the same support from governments and ports worldwide to address the unprecedented challenges associated with repatriating remaining crew members.

Can you tell us how CLIA cruise lines have helped to repatriate crew members safely?

CLIA cruise line members have dedicated considerable resources and have gone to great lengths to repatriate crew. Flight restrictions and port closures created significant challenges, but the cruise lines have remained singularly focused on the health and safety of those onboard ships and have done whatever they can to bring crew home. Where commercial flights have not been an option due to travel restrictions, cruise lines have chartered flights and organised sailings using company ships, with many travelling thousands of miles. More than 90 per cent of crew members have been brought home since May.

The entire maritime sector has been working to support seafarers, which included CLIA co-sponsoring an International Maritime Organization circular letter that urges member states to take urgent action on crew changes and for keyworker designation so that sea and air workers can be relieved and repatriated in a safe way during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is an ongoing and critical issue, and we’ll continue to work to ensure seafarers receive the support they need.

How has CLIA been working with partners to help its cruise line members to prepare for their ships returning to sea?

CLIA provides the platform for education, collaboration, advocacy and promotion in support of the wider cruise community. Currently, we’re engaging with renowned medical and science experts and have collaborated with health authorities at all levels of government to consider new protocols to enhance public health for passengers, crew and the communities we visit. In addition, we’re connecting the cruise community with one another through regular online convenings that allow cruise lines, suppliers, outside experts and government entities to exchange information.

Some have questioned the cruise industry’s ability to provide a safe and enjoyable vacation in the future. What would you say to these detractors and how would you reassure travellers who may be apprehensive about taking a cruise in future?

The cruise industry has a 50-year track record of being a leader in protecting the health of passengers, crew and the destinations we visit. In fact, many of the protocols you see being implemented by other industries have been in place for years across the cruise lines.

As CLIA cruise line members sail again, health and safety will continue to be at the forefront and that’s why our members are working together to consider new and enhanced health protocols, technologies and sanitation solutions informed by some of the world’s leading experts in coordination with public health officials, governments and ports. The approach is wide-ranging, with a set of core industry protocols and operational enhancements under consideration.

When cruising resumes in earnest, the cruise industry will continue its long tradition of leading the way with new and enhanced measures. While it’s too soon to discuss specific protocols because the scientific knowledge about the virus is changing almost daily, one thing is clear: CLIA and its ocean-going cruise line members are fully committed to identifying viable technologies that help minimise the risk of the introduction of Covid-19 aboard ships and enable them to quickly detect and respond to risks and combat transmission.

To that end, the cruise industry is exploring more robust screening protocols that go beyond other travel sectors; expanded cleaning and sanitation practices for ships and terminals; and comprehensive shipboard prevention, surveillance and response measures that are effective in protecting the safety and health of passengers, crew, and the residents of the communities we visit. Some of these include enhanced screening of passengers and crew; appropriate distancing measures across the spectrum for the entirety of the guest experience; and buffets being modified or eliminated as necessary. We’re also identifying potential solutions to overcome the challenges related to shoreside excursions, with the objective of finding ways to help prevent the unintentional spread of the virus. In addition, cruise lines are unique in having medical facilities and personnel onboard, so we’re looking at increasing these capabilities and also developing pre-arranged options for medical evacuations with consideration of impacts on local healthcare systems. Most importantly, crew will be trained on all new and enhanced protocols as an integral part of the industry restart.

When the time is right, cruising will once again be accessible and transformational for travellers wishing to see and experience the world.

What factors do you think make the global cruise industry strong and resilient?

Travel and tourism have the power to transcend all types of barriers and unite people, places and cultures with travel options and experiences that appeal to a broad range of budgets, interests and abilities. Cruise also offers more choices in activities and destinations than any other type of holiday travel, which attracts a diverse and increasingly younger range of travellers, while providing for personal growth and greater understanding of the world by connecting people and cultures. Whether you are a travel agency that helps with the process, a passenger on your first or one of many holidays, a crew member working onboard ship, or a shoreside employee in a port or destination, the passion for travel and the uniqueness of cruise unites us all. It is this passion and unwavering belief that cruising will once again be at the forefront of providing enhanced public health practices that keep this community going at an unprecedented time. We continue to believe brighter days are ahead.

This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2020 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.

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