CruiseRoyal Caribbean Group partners with scientists to affirm that aerosol transmission risks are low on its ships.

Why you can breathe easy while cruising

RCL scientists
RCL's existing system's air handling units ensure aerosol particles are "exceptionally low and undetectable on surfaces and in the air in most test cases". Photo Credit: Royal Caribbean Group

Royal Caribbean Group (RCL) has brought in a team of scientists from the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the National Strategic Research Institute to determine the robustness and safety standards of its existing HVAC (heating, ventilating and air-conditioning) system.

The result? Guests can breathe easy, since the teams' work confirmed that RCL's existing system's air handling units reduces "the transmission of aerosol particles between spaces, so much so that it’s exceptionally low and undetectable on surfaces and in the air in most test cases".

With the support of the Healthy Sail Panel — jointly assembled by assembled by Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings last July — the independent study was conducted onboard the Oasis of the Seas in the same month to "recommend the most effective, scientifically sound ways to make the cruise experience healthier and safer," according to a RCL statement.

The team of five medical scientists specialising in bioaerosols were called onboard in particular to probe into ship air management strategies — ventilation, filtration and supply — and HVAC's air flow across different areas of the ship.

For instance, the system performs 15 to 20 air changes hourly, which is twice the recommended amount for shoreside public venues such as theatres. Scientists also found that for spaces connected only by the ventilation system such as adjacent staterooms, there was no exchange of aerosol particles. For public areas such as the casino and ice rink, fresh air is supplied individually to each space.

While all is well, both teams have recommended some shipboard adjustments such as upgrading to MERV 13 filters to catch even more minute particle sizes, and adding HEPA filters in the medical facility for extra precaution.

"Our existing HVAC system is designed with several layers to continuously bring in the ocean air and filter it multiple times before it reaches our guests and crew. We are glad to see the study conclude that our robust system is effective in reducing transmission,” said Patrik Dahlgren, SVP, global marine operations & fleet optimisation.

"By taking a scientific approach and implementing recommendations made by the experts at University of Nebraska Medical Center and the National Strategic Research Institute, we’ve created an environment that is even safer for our guests and crew. And we’ve done so without compromising their comfort — which is always front of mind because this is our guests’ vacations and our crew’s home at sea.”

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