For the past two weeks, the big issue has been Influenza A (H1N1) formerly known as Swine Flu. We altered itineraries on a number of ships, in an abundance of caution, to avoid calling in Mexico until we have a better understanding of the situation. Mexico is arguably the most important cruise destination on the planet, with both the east and west coasts of great significance to many ships and itineraries. Having to suddenly exclude Mexico from our portfolio of destinations is unprecedented and we look forward to returning there ASAP.
I imagine people outside the company never feel we respond quickly enough. They are so hungry for the “news.” From my standpoint, it was remarkable how quickly we reacted. We were at least hours and, for the most part, days ahead of our competition in providing new itinerary details and compensation policies our web sites in press releases.
On Tuesday morning, two weeks ago, I asked Chris Allen, our Director of Deployment & Itinerary Planning, to create a scenario where our ships would avoid Mexico with the least deviation possible from the existing itineraries. Following that discussion, there was a three hour meeting in our situation room where approximately 20 departments discussed every aspect of such widespread and unexpected changes to our normal operations. By mid-afternoon, Chris had alternatives for every route. This included a promising scenario for what to do with Mariner of the Seas on the west coast, which was the most affected ship. In order to comply with U.S. law, if Mariner couldn’t go to Mexico, her only choice was to go to Canada. We were all pleasantly surprised that Chris put together a one week itinerary including San Francisco, Victoria, B.C. and Seattle. We even have people asking that we continue this itinerary in the future!
I’m proud of our entire team for their quick and comprehensive reaction to this fast developing situation. And I don’t even have room to write about the work that took place on the medical side of the preparations. I’m equally proud of the work Dr. Art Diskin and my other colleagues have done to ensure our terminals and ships are completely prepared for anything related to H1N1.
For the most timely information about H1N1 and other health safety, I encourage all of our customers to visit the CDC website.