Cruise & Ferry Review - Autumn/Winter 2020

F or more than five decades, Royal Caribbean Group’s innovative cruise ships have taken millions of guests to thousands of destinations around the world every year. However, for the majority of 2020, the 62 ships belonging to its four cruise brands – Azamara, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Silversea Cruises – and its joint venture TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises have been forced to sit idle in ports, harbours and open waters due to travel restrictions and ‘No Sail’ orders triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. In the wake of the industry shutdown, Royal Caribbean Group had one key priority: to ensure that its more than 45,000 crew members were safely returned home. “We’ve worked with governments and other organisations to coordinate the monumental effort to repatriate our crew members,” says Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group. “There have been very complex ongoing conversations and incredibly difficult logistical challenges to navigate together, but we’ve all been driven by one common goal – ensuring everyone’s wellbeing. I’m pleased to say that more than 98 per cent of our crew members have now been safely reunited with their loved ones in more than 90 countries around the world.” Royal Caribbean Group has also implemented several key measures to help protect both the physical and mental wellbeing of crew members and their families. Among the new services on offer is an employee edition of the RCL Cares programme. “The programme has stepped up the support provided by several of our tried- and-true employee assistance services,” says Fain. “As part of this, we’ve been providing our crew members and their families with 24/7, confidential telephone or online counselling, as well as other resources that can be accessed from home or onboard our ships. We have also created an employee-dedicated fund to support those of our colleagues who have been severely impacted by hardships as a result of Covid-19.” Ever appreciative of the fundamental role shipboard crew members play in helping to deliver unforgettable cruise experiences for guests and drive the company’s success, Fain adds: “Despite facing one difficult challenge after the next, our crew members have been incredibly understanding, passionate and motivated. It’s encouraging and inspiring to see, and we’re lucky to be side by side with them throughout all this.” Now that all but essential crew members have been successfully repatriated and countries around the world are beginning to open up their borders and relax travel restrictions, Royal Caribbean Group is turning its attention to a new challenge: how to safely resume operations. “While the situation remains complex as we continue to learn about the virus along with the rest of the world, we are seeing the main focus of our conversations with governments and industry organisations shift to our healthy return to sailing,” says Fain. At the time of writing, Royal Caribbean Group had not set a date to resume operations. The company’s “one and only focus” is to develop a plan that will protect its guests, crew members and the destinations its ships visit to an “even higher standard” than in the past, says Fain. “With an unprecedented disease like Covid-19, there are a lot of different factors to take into account,” he explains. “However, it ultimately boils down to the fact that our approach must apply the best available science, technology, engineering and public health principles; it must be applied globally, given the make-up of our dynamic business; and it must be comprehensive so that it covers the entire cruise experience from the moment the guest books to the moment they return home. It’s a tall order and rightfully so – we don’t compromise on safety. We want to get it right when we return, and we’re taking it one step at a time to get there.” KEYNOTE A beacon of hope Rebecca Gibson asks Richard Fain how he is safely navigating Royal Caribbean Group through the stormy waters caused by the Covid-19 pandemic “Our crew members have been incredibly understanding, passionate and motivated” 1 4