Cruise Industry Still on Hold as No Sail Order Extended Again

Posted on Wednesday, July 29th, 2020 at 9:25 pm    

Considered a nonessential travel method that should be avoided during the COVID-19 pandemic, cruise ships have been sitting idle since the middle of March, and there is no definite date in place for when they will be able to sail again.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) put a No Sail Order in place on March 14, 2020, for all cruise ships that operate in U.S. waters and carry over 250 passengers and crew. The CDC also put cruise ships under a Level 3 travel health notice because of an increased risk for person-to-person spread of the coronavirus among passengers. The No Sail Order was extended on April 15, and a second extension was announced on July 16, 2020. The order will remain in effect until one of the following events occur:

  • The CDC rescinds or modifies the order, or
  • COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency, as declared by the Secretary of Health and Human, or
  • September 30, 2020

How Cruise Lines Are Handling the Crisis

On March 13, 2020, the cruise line industry’s largest trade association, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), announced a voluntary 30-day suspension of operations for all of its member cruise lines. The suspension was prolonged until July 24 and then again to September 15. Although the cruise industry is currently experiencing substantial financial losses, it is looking ahead with optimism. The CLIA website states, “Despite current challenges, the cruise community will emerge from this global crisis stronger and even better than before.”

Popular cruise lines like Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean have posted special messages on their websites to address questions from travelers. The statements strive to rebuild trust by explaining that the organization’s first priority is safety, and it is working to implement whatever changes are necessary to meet the new demands.

Many cruise lovers live in the U.S., so cruise lines have devoted customers who will want to come back at their first opportunity. Policies for cancellation and postponement of reservations have been relaxed, and deep discounts are being offered to encourage people to plan ahead for returning to sea. However, passenger numbers may struggle to be restored to pre-pandemic levels. The cruise business profits by putting as many travelers as possible on one ship. Passengers interact in group activities, sit elbow-to-elbow in theatres, and eat meals or sunbathe within arms-reach of each other. The social atmosphere is the perfect place for viruses to circulate. Cruise ship companies are having to re-think their typical business model in order to promote their service and make customers feel safe.

New Protocols When Cruise Ships Sail Again

When cruising is once more a travel option, restarting operations will most likely happen in a gradual manner, as the virus will be at different stages in different areas. Health and safety will have to be made a priority to preserve the future of the industry. Planning is now in the works for new protocols to be in place when sailing resumes to protect passengers and crew from illness outbreaks onboard. New procedures under consideration include:

Capacity limits

Since maintaining social distancing throughout the ship can go far in preventing the spread of disease, the number of passengers allowed on cruises will be reduced. With less capacity, the inside cabins could go unoccupied, and instead, rooms with windows or balconies could be filled up to allow passengers access to fresh air.

Boarding procedures and health screenings

Touch-free temperature scans will be required before boarding. Ship personnel may also decide to deny boarding to anyone with symptoms of illness. Crew procedures for embarkation will be touchless, and boarding times will be staggered to avoid close contact in lines as passengers take turns going through the boarding process.

Enhanced cleaning

Hand sanitizing stations will be located throughout ships, and in-depth disinfecting of all public areas repeated regularly. Certain sections of the ship may be closed periodically to allow for deep cleaning.

Stateroom safeguards

Cleaning supplies (disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer) and protective gear (masks and gloves) could be added amenities for each cabin. Extra bedding that can’t be washed easily, such as throw pillows and bedspreads, could be omitted. Disposable covers for high-touch items, such as television remote controls, is another possible hygiene precaution.

Dining variations

Requiring hand sanitizer use upon entering onboard restaurants is a measure that some cruise lines already had in place, but the crowd-pleasing self-service buffets may disappear altogether. Passengers may be assigned to tables in dining rooms and seated only with their traveling companions. Crowding could be reduced by spreading diners out with more venue options available, especially outdoors, or instituting multiple seating times. Room service could be encouraged by expanding the menu choices and hours of availability.

Future Considerations for Cruise Operators

Although relaxing some of the new protocols eventually will probably make sense, the stricter sanitation procedures should remain in place. With the cruise industry’s history of onboard virus outbreaks, such as norovirus, the augmented attention to cleanliness should be a welcome and permanent addition to its operations.

Competition has always been intense among cruise lines, and it will probably only increase while some travelers still rule out cruising as a vacation option. Sanitation policies will be added to the amenities that customers compare between ships, so companies should be racing to outdo each other in the area of onboard health.

Louis A. Vucci P.A. Is Here for You

Has your life been impacted by the detrimental event of contracting COVID-19 as a guest or crew member on a cruise? You may have a personal injury claim that Louis A. Vucci P.A. can help you with. Our skilled medical negligence attorneys can determine if your illness was caused by the cruise line’s failure to act responsibly, and you could be entitled to financial compensation. To find out how you may be able to pursue legal action after your COVID-19 diagnosis, just call us at (786) 375-0344 or fill out this contact form. Let’s get started today.


How Are Cruise Lines Navigating the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Posted on Tuesday, July 7th, 2020 at 9:54 pm    

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on the cruise industry. The global outbreak has caused major problems for hospitality and travel in general, but the nature of the cruise industry, in particular, presents unique issues, including forcing potentially infected passengers to spend weeks in close proximity to one another, with limited medical care.

Under these new circumstances, cruise lines are often unable to guarantee the safety of their customers. The result has been a cessation of operations and employees stranded on ships, waiting to be repatriated to their home countries. Some companies have been sued for their alleged inadequate response to the crisis.

Problems Faced by Cruise Lines

The primary issue that cruise companies must deal with during the pandemic is providing a clean and sanitized environment. Thousands of people must live together in close quarters for weeks, eating, drinking, and socializing in close proximity, and touching surfaces that may be contaminated. While evidence suggests that COVID-19 is not spread through food, its ability to spread through HVAC systems is unclear. Also at issue is the ability of a cruise ship to spread contagion to other cities worldwide, as the ship makes stops for tours and excursions.

Frequent cruise ship passengers tend to be older, above 65 years of age. This age group is at a higher risk than the general population of suffering severe effects or death from the COVID-19 virus, and their medical needs are more extensive.

Health care on cruise ships is very limited. Even a large ship may only have a couple of doctors and a few nurses on board. A small medical staff such as this can be incredibly inadequate to deal with a major disease outbreak among the passengers. Ships must have medical staff on-call 24 hours a day, but this could mean that the limited staff becomes overworked during a viral outbreak.

How Can Cruise Lines Protect Their Passengers and Crew?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control provides federal guidelines for cruise ships in the form of the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP). While these rules primarily address gastrointestinal and not respiratory illnesses, some of the recommendations overlap with CDC advice for the prevention of COVID-19 infection. A Carnival spokesperson has noted that the company has implemented protocols including monitoring guests for fever as well as additional procedures for cleaning and sanitation.

In response to the pandemic, the CDC announced an industry-wide No-Sail Order on March 14. The order remains in effect until July 24, or until the CDC director decides to rescind or modify the order, or the Secretary of Health and Human Services declares that COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency. The order applies to all commercial passenger ships that carry more than 250 guests and where an overnight stay is anticipated.

Current Cruise-Related Lawsuits

It can be difficult to sue cruise companies, as they enjoy a number of protections, and are often not U.S. companies and not subject to many safety regulations that would normally protect customers and employees. Still, many cruise lines are facing lawsuits related to their response to the crisis:

  • Carnival Cruise Lines has been sued by more than 60 passengers for failing to protect them from COVID-19. The lawsuit alleges that Carnival failed to sanitize the Grand Princess ship between voyages and didn’t screen new passengers for the disease.
  • Costa Cruises has been sued in federal court by passengers of the Costa Luminosa vessel, alleging the company acted negligently in response to an outbreak on the ship. Three passengers on that voyage have died from COVID-19 so far.
  • Royal Caribbean is facing a wrongful death suit after two crew members were airlifted off the Oasis of the Seas vessel, and a 27-year-old member of the Celebrity Infinity crew died from the virus.
  • Holland America has been hit with a lawsuit after an outbreak of COVID-19 on their MS Zaandam vessel in March. The ship set sail from Buenos Aires on March 7 and stopped in Montevideo, Uruguay, and the Falkland Islands before the trip was canceled a week later.

Recent Developments

Each cruise line has made their own decision as to when to resume sailing:

  • Carnival plans to deny boarding to all guests age 70 or older unless they have a letter of fitness from their physician. Carnival cruises in North America are suspended through September 30, except for Carnival Legend, suspended through October 30, and Carnival Radiance, canceled through November 2. They will suspend their Australian cruises through August 31.
  • Costa Cruises has suspended all cruises through August 15, and their Northern Europe cruises through the remainder of the summer season.
  • Holland America is suspending global operations of its fleet through Fall 2020.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line has suspended operations through September 30, and intends to resume sailing on October 1.
  • Royal Caribbean has canceled its sailings until September 16, except for voyages to China, which they hope to resume in August.

Start dates will depend greatly on the progress of the outbreak at the time and whether there is a second wave of the virus in the fall.

What Cruise Passengers Should Expect in The Future

Guests should expect additional safety measures, such as pre-boarding health screenings, periodic temperature checks, and the suspension of buffets. Companies are expected to enhance their sterilization procedures and monitor public spaces, closing them early each day for deep cleaning. Ship crews will be trained in new procedures to combat outbreaks, and ships may expand their medical facilities and add new medical staff. Shore excursions will adopt protocols for the requirements of each port.

Global cruise lines represent a $45 billion industry, serving more than 20 million passengers a year. The cruise companies continue to make changes to make their vessels safer for the public, but there is much work to be done. Until there is a vaccine in place, cruise lines will remain in a frustrating state of limbo, and may continue to face litigative hurdles.

Contact a Cruise Ship Injury Attorney Today

Cruise lines are often international companies that are not subject to U.S. safety regulations, making cruise line legal cases particularly complex. However, the cruise line attorneys at Louis A. Vucci P.A. are highly experienced in this area of law. We have the skills and resources needed to uphold your rights and secure the full and fair compensation you need.

If you’ve suffered from COVID-19 or if you have lost a loved one to COVID-19 as a result of traveling on a cruise ship, don’t hesitate to contact our attorneys at (786) 375-0344 to schedule a free consultation. We’ll fight for the justice you deserve.