By Nivedita Balu and Helen Coster
(Reuters) – Hoping to set sail again after a long halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. said on Monday they submitted a report to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) detailing health and safety protocols.
The cruise operators detailed 74 steps, including enhanced sanitation practices, controlling shore excursions and better protection for crew members, to protect guests once cruises resume.
Recommendations also include rigorous screening and testing before boarding and plans to address positive infection on board, the companies said.
In an interview with Reuters on Monday, which included the two cruise line chief executives and other members of a panel that developed the guidelines, Norwegian Chief Executive Frank Del Rio said he did not know how much Norwegian would need to pay to implement the panel’s recommendations.
“Put it in context, this is a drop in the bucket,” Del Rio said. “Whatever the number is, and I truly don’t know what it is and I don’t think [Royal Caribbean CEO] Richard [Fain] does either. We are at a zero revenue environment. This is a necessary step to return to service and we’re not really concerned about what the costs are.”
In July, the two companies announced a joint task force to help develop safety standards for restarting their businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
The cruise industry has taken a major hit from the pandemic, with some of the earliest large clusters of COVID-19 occurring aboard cruise ships.
The CDC first issued a no-sail order on March 14 for all cruise ships and has been extending it since.
Cruise operators have lost about half to two-thirds of their value so far this year. Their shares were last down between 4% and 6% as worries of a second lockdown amid rising coronavirus cases shook broader markets.
(Reporting by Helen Coster in New York and Nivedita Balu in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Dan Grebler)