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Part 2: What Cruise Lines Tell Us About The Importance of Covid Testing

June 26, 2021

In our previous post, we covered two separate instances of cruise-related COVID-19 cases, and how both instances illustrate the effectiveness of comprehensive testing programs when it comes to preventing outbreaks by catching infections as early as possible. The story of reopening cruise lines is much larger than that, however. Today, we’re looking at three more aspects of the cruise industry’s return that can help us better understand the challenges that all industries are likely to face going forward.

Regulations will continue to shift.

Last October, the CDC published its conditional sailing order, which included four distinct phases necessary for cruise lines to resume sailing as usual, including strict requirements for vaccinations among passengers and crew. The state of Florida challenged this order in court, and as of last Friday a federal judge ruled in favor of a preliminary injunction that will prevent the conditional sailing order from being enforced in the state.  

This back and forth offers a bit of a preview with regard to how reopening rules for cruises and other industries may continue to evolve as various jurisdictions attempt to find the right balance between prudence and privacy. Any business operating across multiple states or countries must not only understand the requirements placed upon them by local law, but also create comprehensive COVID-19 response strategies that manage to protect their employees and customers to the highest standard without interrupting as they move through jurisdictions.

Health & safety protocols will be immediately strained.

As part of reopening, cruise lines are conducting “test cruises” to assess the efficacy of their COVID-19 safety measures. In May, Royal Caribbean solicited volunteers for its Freedom of the Seas test cruise, and over 250,000 people volunteered for a ship with a maximum capacity of just under 4,000. This is absolutely a testament to the eagerness and loyalty of cruise aficionados, of course, but it also speaks to larger trends we’re seeing in terms of appetite for travel, in-person events, and so on.

This eagerness to get out and interact again is understandable, but it also poses real challenges for health & safety protocols related to the pandemic. Voracious demand means that businesses of all types will likely be flirting with capacity limits, whatever those might be -- and they’ll likely be doing so in a sustained fashion. It’s possible to pull together a quick-fix testing plan, for example, but those will fall apart under the prolonged pressure we should expect to see as people rediscover the joys of simply being around one another and doing “normal” things. 

There’s no room for compromise -- on anything.
The “test cruises” mentioned above aren’t just about proving that cruise lines’ protocols are effective, because efficacy on its own isn’t enough.  These cruises are also attempting to prove that the protocols don’t stop passengers from having a good time. In other words, it’s critical that COVID-19 safety protocols protect passengers and employees without compromising the core product that cruise lines offer: namely, a fun, relaxing vacation. Any plan that can’t do both is bound to fail.

This no-compromise stance extends across industries, too: businesses can’t compromise on the focus and productivity of their workers, transportation companies can’t compromise on getting passengers to their destinations quickly, and so on. This means that practices like COVID-19 testing must be deployed in the least disruptive way possible, which requires a significant amount of know-how and finesse.

The cruise industry -- and others -- are reopening in a world with inconsistent regulations, the prospect of high demand, and a need to find a perfect balance between safety and unobtrusiveness in their COVID-19 safety protocols. Wellstand has the comprehensive expertise necessary to deploy an integrated testing and wellness strategy that checks all of those boxes, and more. Contact us to find out how we can help you get started.

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