Cruise executives excitedly expressed their optimism yesterday about resuming cruises at the annual Seatrade Cruise conference, which is being held this year in an entirely virtual manner due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carnival Corporation’s Arnold Donald, NCL’s Frank Del Rio and Royal Caribbean all stated that they were confident that cruising would soon start from U.S. ports. None of the CEO’s offered detailed explanations how the cruise industry intends to significantly reduce the likelihood of shipboard COVD-19 outbreaks.

Carnival CEO Arnold was the only executive to bring a hint of reality to the conference when he admitted that as the virus continues to spread on land, it will likely spread at sea.

The main talking point at the conference was that the cruise lines promised to require what they are calling “100% testing” of guests. However, as leading epidemiologists and even the paid experts on the RCL-NCL “Healthy Sail” panel have made clear, the proposed testing is not 100% reliable.

Plus, the proposed testing is limited. The cruise lines are not suggesting that they will require repeated testing, both before and after boarding. Instead, the cruise lines will require a single negative from guests before boarding.

The “super-spreader” event at the White House and Rose Garden which has infected the President and nearly two dozen senior members of his administration should be proof that tests are not perfect. Passengers and crew alike will be at risk of contracting this deadly disease.  As Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday about stopping the spread of the pandemic: “Look at what happened this week at the White House. That is a reality right there.”

What was particularly absent from yesterday’s conference was  any details about the specifics of how the industry intends to reduce airborne transmission of COVID-19 on its ships. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledged that infection may occur through airborne transmission, especially in enclosed spaces with inadequate ventilation. Cruise ships are well known for having recycled air conditioning with poor or no filters, unlike commercial aircraft which have long used HEPA filters with fresh air.

In the past, the cruise lines have made vague statements about improving their air conditioning and ventilation systems, but there is no proof that any of the many hundreds of ships have, in fact, been redesigned or retrofitted. The “Healthy Sail” panel recommends the need for such modifications, but there is no indication that new systems are in place. Nor is there a timetable when they will be installed. It is important that the CDC first inspect each cruise ship and certify that the systems are suitable before permitting the ships to resume cruising.

As expected, there was no mention of prudently waiting for a vaccine before resuming cruises. Short of a tested and effective vaccine, the cruise executives are left the impossible task of trying to convince its customers to take their families on leisure cruises during a pandemic.

The CDC’s 29-page “No-Sail” order explains the death, anguish and suffering caused by the panemic. Scientists at this federal agency concluded that cruise ships exacerbate the global spread of COVID-19 and strain already overburdened local health systems in the U.S.

As one reader stated on Twitter yesterday, cruising will be ready to safely resume when there is no longer a need to partipate in a virtual Seatrade Cruise conference.

Follow the conference on Twitter by clicking on #STCVirtual.

Interested in this issue? We suggest reading Why The Royal Caribbean – NCL “Healthy Sail” Protocols Will Fail.

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Update: an operation manage for Silversea tweeted this at the beginning of the conference: