Tuesday, November 10, 2020
A New Reality
I am sure you saw it; how could you miss it!!! Last week in the United States, the Center for Disease Control lifted the “no-sail’ order for cruise ships. Oh, happy days!!!
But what, exactly, does this mean? Can we make our way to a port tomorrow and sail off to adventure?
Well no, not so fast. This is only the beginning of a process.
Let’s take a look at the CDC “Framework for Resuming Safe and Responsible Cruise Passenger Operations”: it’s a four-stage plan…..
Lab Testing: Although the 40-page document does not specifically state cruise ships have testing labs on board, it does require all crew and passengers be tested prior to embarkation and before disembarkation which could necessitate a contract with shoreside facilities. Additionally, cruise lines are required to have agreements with “health care entities” for evacuation, onshore hospitalization, and quarantine of crew or passengers if ever in need of care.
Simulated Voyages: Now this is a really, really interesting requirement. Cruise ships must test and prove the safety of their operational protocols for mitigating the risk of Covid-19. They will do this by conducting “simulated voyages” with volunteers on board (obviously the crew but, more interestingly, passengers). Volunteers are already lining up in eager anticipation!!! These simulations may take place in port or on short sea excursions and must include simulations of: terminal check-in and post-cruise disembarkation, dining and entertainment venues, evacuation procedures, and Covid-19 protocols (sanitizing, masks, social distancing, hand-washing). And then…..the protocols in case of infection: isolation rooms, quarantine procedures, transfer of infected patients to medical facilities onboard or onshore. This is where pre-established contracts and agreements would come into play. Sounds complicated doesn’t it??? You can see why simulations are necessary!!!
Certification: Upon completion of the simulated voyage, the ship will submit an after-action report assessing any deficiencies and their plans to correct them. The CDC reviews this and most likely will assign a rating using the currently established color-coding system. A green rating will lead to a Conditional Sailing Certificate.
Return to Service comes after the Conditional Sailing Certificate is awarded. The cruises will be limited to a maximum of 7 days. It is unclear at this time if passengers will be allowed to book back-to-back cruises. Do you suppose the cruises will wind up going to the Caribbean where so many cruise lines own private islands??? It will be interesting to see where the cruise ships will be welcome. Many ports have already opened to tourism but there are many that have not!!! And of course, those agreements for testing, hospitalization, and quarantine must be in place!!! In addition, an agreement between cruise lines must be reached to govern the number of ships visiting a port at the same time.
BUT WAIT, STOP THE PRESSES, THERE’S MORE!!!
Yesterday, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and BioNTech announced:
THEY HAVE DEVELOPED A VACCINE FOR COVID-19!!!
It is 90% effective!!!
It will hit the distribution system before the end of this month.
Can normalcy be far behind???