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The cruise giant is looking for ways to keep guests safe on future sailings

By Hannah Chubb
April 27, 2020 01:56 PM
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Close up portrait of a man in colorful Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses wearing protective surgical face mask standing outdoors under sunny blue sky
Credit: Getty

The coronavirus pandemic will likely change cruising forever. And a move from Royal Caribbean is giving a first look at what that future might hold.

The cruise giant is looking to trademark their own branded face mask — which they’ve named “Seaface” — to be worn by passengers on future sailings.

The company confirmed the news to PEOPLE, sharing that the mask is “one in a number of innovations that our teams are exploring as we look forward to a safe, healthy and fun return to cruise.”

According to the patent application, Seaface products would be “sanitary masks for virus isolation purposes,” which would be used for “cruise ship services.” The company could not confirm how the masks would be implemented or used on board their fleet if they are approved.

The application was filed on April 8 and has since been accepted, though it will not be assigned an examiner for approval until three months after filing, as is standard practice.

Serenade of the Sea
Credit: JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty

The masks are an interesting look forward for an industry that has taken a huge hit since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) began. They may also be a cause for hope for those looking to begin cruising again as soon as possible, as some reports show travelers are already planning voyages for 2021 despite current uncertainty.

Royal Caribbean first announced in a statement on March 14 that it would be suspending global cruising for all of their fleet in response to the pandemic. This includes six different cruise lines it owns: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara, Tui Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Pullmanter.

Currently, they plan to resume operations on June 12 for most of their fleet, and July 1 for all Canadian sailings, due to later port closures, though these dates may change in response to guidance from health and government officials.

Aerial Harmony of the Seas
Credit: Royal Caribbean international

Speaking to PEOPLE about why cruise vacations are particularly dangerous amid the pandemic last month, infectious disease expert Dr. William Haseltine noted that cruise ships “are incubators. Everybody’s close together, packed in all the time. One person gets sick, a lot of them get sick. It’s a very unfavorable environment for disease transmission.”

On March 9, the U.S. State Department issued a warning that Americans “should not travel by cruise ship” at this time, noting that the “cruise ship environment” can foster an “increased risk of infection.” The Centers for Disease Control issued a similar statement.

Cruise ships have been the sites of numerous major outbreaks of coronavirus around the world, leaving hundreds ill and resulting in several deaths. Royal Caribbean has fared better than some of its competitors amid the pandemic, but in early April, two people were airlifted from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship near Florida.

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The No Sail Order indefinitely for all cruise ships was extended by the CDC on April 9. Cruise lines will not be allowed to disembark passengers at any U.S. port of call without direction from the U.S. Coast Guard, in consultation with the CDC, HHS and other government bodies.

CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a press release that the agency is “working with the cruise line industry to address the health and safety of crew at sea as well as communities surrounding U.S. cruise ship points of entry.”

He added, “The measures we are taking today to stop the spread of COVID-19 are necessary to protect Americans, and we will continue to provide critical public health guidance to the industry to limit the impacts of COVID-19 on its workforce throughout the remainder of this pandemic.”