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Dying to get back on a cruise ship when the CDC’s no-sail order expires but nervous about the potential spread of coronavirus on board?

Royal Caribbean is looking for a solution.

On April 8, the cruise company filed an application with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to trademark their very own sanitary face mask, aptly named “Seaface.”

All subsidiaries of Royal Caribbean will use the mask if the patent is approved and the company chooses to implement it, spokesperson Jonathon Fishman, told USA TODAY. Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. includes Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Azamara, Tui Cruises, Silversea Cruises and Pullmantur. 

The application for the “sanitary masks for virus isolation purposes,” which can be viewed on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s website, has been accepted but has not yet been assigned to an examiner. The form states that new applications are assigned to an examining attorney approximately three months after filing. 

The CDC issued an extension of its original no-sail order by 100 days. The extension went into effect on April 15. 

As of Saturday afternoon, Fishman said he didn’t have any more information to offer but was looking into the matter. 

Could industry changes mandate face masks, other changes on board?

Though leading trade organization Cruise Lines International Association has not announced any long-term changes on ships in response to the coronavirus outbreak, some may be on the table.

“As cruise lines begin planning for the future, they are exploring ways to go further still to improve upon their already robust public health protocols, including additional screening requirements and enhanced sanitation measures,” Golin-Blaugrund said Monday.

The CDC confirmed that plans are coming and noted they will be similar to protocol already in place to address gastrointestinal illnesses on board.

When the CDC issued its no-sail order extension April 9, it required all ships in U.S. waters to create plans to address coronavirus prevention and response. 

“Ships are currently formulating similar plans to address outbreaks of COVID-19, and these plans could also be modified to prevent and respond to other communicable illnesses in the future,” said Aimee Treffiletti, chief of the CDC’s Vessel Sanitation Program.

Two cruise lines based in Asia, Star Cruises and Dream Cruises, have already said that masks will be required for crew during food and beverage service, when ships return to operation, The Points Guy reported.

Cruise lines “have a duty to mitigate foreseeable risks,” said Jeff Ment, an attorney who specializes in representing travel companies. It “requires a plan, screening people, kicking off people who are sick.”

Any obvious health risks, such as shared serving spoons for buffets, are likely to disappear, he said.

Cruise operators may feel compelled to require more social distancing, especially in dining rooms or theaters. But limiting the number of customers plays havoc with profitability. 

Ment said cruise lines may improve air filtration on ships and beef up medical facilities. Some luxury cruises attract a high-end clientele, yet “you don’t know much about what’s in a medical facility on ships.” 

Michael Winkleman, a Miami-based maritime attorney who filed lawsuits seeking class-action status against cruise lines concerning the coronavirus on behalf of passengers and crews, hopes the industry will make necessary improvements.

“I think the industry has to learn its lesson,” he said.

‘Inherently high-risk setting’: Are cruise ships unsafe – and will they change?

Cleaning a floating petri dish: How is a cruise ship sanitized after a coronavirus outbreak?

Contributing: Chris Woodyard

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