Richard Fain, chairman and CEO of Royal Caribbean Group, answered questions during Coffee Talk with Vicky Freed on the 24th. Mars several questions from travel advisors, including about vaccination requirements, the travel advisor credit program and a new sense of momentum.
Royal Caribbean International is requiring proof of vaccination against KOVID-19 for adults embarking on its new cruises from Nassau, the Bahamas and Bermuda. Mandatory vaccination is controversial because many people in the country are hesitant to be vaccinated.
According to Fain, the need for the vaccine is determined on a case-by-case basis in collaboration with local authorities, but the mandate can be changed or lifted over time.
Richard Fain, president and CEO, Royal Caribbean Group. (Photo by Royal Caribbean)
Four of our ships are currently operating without vaccine, Fain said, referring to ships operating in Singapore and the Canary Islands. We just announced two series of new cruises and everyone said we would start mandatory vaccinations for adults and tests for children. As science advances, we will change and adapt. These cruises do not depart until June. They will start on that basis, with the necessary inoculations, but that could change tomorrow.
He discussed discussions with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the conditional non-parasite decision that has been in effect since October.
Interestingly, this is a four-phase process, and we’re now four months into phase 1, and we don’t know what phase 2 will require, Fain said. Science is ahead of the conventional order without the spin. Last October, we thought this was a very positive move by the CDC, but now it’s here. Our Healthy Sail group and others in the industry believe that, given the sweeping changes we have seen in three areas – vaccine, testing and contact tracing – it is time to move on. … It is time to acknowledge the evolution of medical science and move on.
He pointed out that RCG Brands has successfully sailed without a vaccine on the Quantum of the Seas in Singapore and three TUI/Hapag-Lloyd joint venture ships, all in the Canary Islands.
Americans embarking on these cruises or on the new summer cruises to Bermuda and the Bahamas will receive a free COVID-19 test on board so customers have the necessary documentation to re-enter the United States, said Fried, the company’s senior vice president of sales, commercial support and services.
Another interesting note: Fain said many fear that after the first few days of the pandemic, newcomers will not try to cruise again and only loyal cruisers will return.
That’s just not true, he said. In Singapore, 80% of our guests are newcomers. In Germany, the Canary Islands and Greece the percentage of first responders is even at or above the pre-pandemic level. People are fed up. There is a demand for the tractor and we must seize it.
A travel consultant asked Fain if it was the season in Europe this year. His answer: There will be a season, but it won’t be the same.
We’ve already started to announce a few, our TUI brand is already working, MSC and Costa are working outside Italy, and you’ll see us working from Israel to Greece, so yes, I think there will be some, he said. Clearly, this is not going to be an ordinary season.
Still, people go where they have the opportunity to cruise, he said. I found it remarkable that there were already waiting lists in some categories, and that we had just opened them up.
Asked about the possibility of a season in Alaska, Fain admitted the situation was less clear. We work on this with others. I don’t think I’m confident enough to make predictions about the success of our action and theirs. But we’re working on it.
Mr. Fine also spoke about the RCL Cares program, which announced a $40 million financial aid package.
We said we had to do something to help, Fain said. But the company soon found it difficult to overcome the bureaucracy of lending money.
There are so many rules for loans, he said. In our case, we didn’t want to do any research, we didn’t want to show interest, we just wanted to get the money into the hands of people who needed it. There were so many rules, and you need a license to borrow money. So we tried to find a bank that would essentially act as an intermediary, but that proved very difficult. I think we’re in the final stages now… to provide a small lifeline to the travel consultant community.
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