The pandemic brought the cruise industry to a halt last year, with not a single ship having left a U.S. port since.
Now more than a year later, Santa Clarita-based Princess Cruises has announced a restructuring of its shared professional services group and the hiring of more than 200 new positions, as it prepares to resume cruise operations.
The announcement comes as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued long-awaited technical guidance for cruise lines last week, bringing ships one step closer to sailing the waters once again.
The new technical guidance, the first update for the cruise industry since October, includes increasing cruise COVID-19 reporting frequency from weekly to daily, implementing routine testing of all crew based on a ship’s COVID-19 status and establishing a plan and timeline for vaccination of crew and port personnel, among other instructions.
The order is expected to allow cruise lines to prepare their ships for simulation voyages, with trial voyages to practice new COVID-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with paying passengers.
The order did not, however, specify a date for the resumption of cruise operation despite calls from the industry to resume operations by summer, with the CDC adding that it will issue additional guidance before it will allow cruises to resume.
“COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of passenger operations,” the CDC news release stated. “As more people are fully vaccinated, the phased approach allows CDC to incorporate these advancements into planning for resumption of cruise ship travel when it is safe to do so.”
While Princess Cruises remains focused on returning to service as soon as safely possible, it has used the yearlong pause to complete a holistic review of its business and operations to determine what structure and new skills are needed in order to return as the most effective and efficient version of itself, according to spokesman Brian O’Connor, vice president of corporate communications.
The company has realigned its internal structures to support new and more innovative ways of working, and most importantly aiding its ships in safely operating within compliance everywhere they sail so that they consistently exceed the expectations of their guests, O’Connor added.
“In the weeks ahead, the company will be recruiting to hire more than 200 teammates across four cruise lines within our corporation and within our shared professional services group, which operates primarily in Santa Clarita and Seattle,” O’Connor said.
Princess’ shared professional services group has been redesigned to include a new People Department, formerly Human Resources, with “People Partners” to support its multiple cruise ship operating lines and lodge/land tour business.
These professionals are expected to drive engagement with their employees, what O’Connor said the company considers its most valued resource, with a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion throughout the entire company.
In the weeks ahead, new positions are set to be posted for recruiting in finance, guest services, supply chain, marketing and fleet operations.
The CDC is set to continue to update its guidance and recommendations to specify basic safety standards and public health interventions based on the best scientific evidence available.
For more information about COVID-19 and cruise ships, visit cdc.gov/quarantine/cruise.