Royal Caribbean Group partnered with the University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) to study the transmission of aerosol particles through a cruise ship’s heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system.
Scientists who took part in the study concluded that the transmission of aerosol particles between spaces via the HVAC system is exceptionally low and undetectable both in the air and on surfaces.
A team of five medical scientists specializing in bioaerosols, led by Josh Santarpia, PhD. – associate professor, pathology and microbiology, UNMC; and research director, chemical and biological programs, NSRI – were called on to understand in detail the role of HVAC systems in spreading airborne particles on cruise ships.
The study specifically explored the effectiveness and efficiency of cruise ship air management strategies – ventilation, filtration and supply – and examined air flow across different areas of the ship, including guest staterooms, crew staterooms, lounges and other public spaces.
Royal Caribbean’s HVAC systems were intentionally designed to maximize ventilation, continual fresh air intake and filtration prior to the pandemic. These systems continuously bring in ocean air through one side of the ship, filter it multiple times before it reaches staterooms and public areas, and maximize ventilation in every space for frequent air changes.
The air is filtered again before it is exhausted from the opposite side of the ship. As a result, the system in place was already designed to reduce transmission of airborne diseases.
Royal Caribbean is implementing additional layers of precaution to further minimize the possibility of COVID-19 transmission onboard by adjusting shipboard settings to allow for the maximum air changes per hour – twice more what is recommended for land-based venues by ASHRAE — and upgrading to MERV 13 filters throughout the system.
Royal Caribbean Group is applying the recommendations of its Healthy Sail Panel of public health and scientific experts to provide a safer and healthier cruise vacation on all of its sailings. Health and safety protocols, regional travel restrictions and clearance to visit ports of call, are subject to change based on ongoing evaluation, public health standards, and government requirements.
Royal Caribbean Group is the parent company of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea. The company also has a 50% stake in TUI Cruises and Hapag-Lloyd Cruises.