Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) is calling on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to allow a phased resumption of cruise operations from U.S. ports by July 1.
The time frame coincides with President Biden’s forecast for when the United States will be “closer to normal.”
“The lack of any action by the CDC has effectively banned all sailings in the largest cruise market in the world,” said Kelly Craighead, CLIA’s President and CEO. “Cruising is the only sector of the U.S. economy that remains prohibited, even as most others have opened or continued to operate throughout the pandemic.”
The CDC issued a “Conditional Sailing Order” (CSO) on October 30, 2020, which raised industry hopes for a restart early this year. But since then the CDC has not released any further guidance — as called for in the CSO — to support the resumption of U.S. cruise operations.
“The outdated CSO, which was issued almost five months ago, does not reflect the industry’s proven advancements and success operating in other parts of the world, nor the advent of vaccines, and unfairly treats cruises differently,” Craighead stated. “Cruise lines should be treated the same as other travel, tourism, hospitality, and entertainment sectors.”
The CLIA president argues that over the past eight months there has been a “highly controlled” resumption of cruising in Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific, with over 400,000 passengers taking part.
“These voyages were successfully completed with industry-leading protocols that have effectively mitigated the spread of COVID-19. Additional sailings are planned in the Mediterranean and Caribbean later this spring and summer,” Craighead said.
According to CLIA, the very small fraction of reported COVID cases on those sailings — fewer than 50 based on public reports — is dramatically lower than the rate on land or in any other transportation mode.
“The cruise industry has adopted a high bar for resumption around the world with a multi-layered set of policies that is intended to be revised as conditions change,” Craighead said.
“Our members continue to follow this multi-layered approach to enhancing health and safety that has proven effective, making cruising one of the best and most adaptable choices for travel.”
Craighead acknowledged that “the accelerated rollout of vaccines is a gamechanger… especially in the United States, where President Biden expects all adults will be eligible for vaccinations by May 1, 2021.”
While some cruise lines have announced sailings that will require adult passengers and in some cases crew members to be fully vaccinated, CLIA does not yet have a policy related to vaccines. The organization says it is exploring a workable approach for the place vaccinations will play as part of robust protocols.
According to CLIA, restarting cruises as part of the broader travel industry will provide a much-needed boost to the U.S. economy. Based on economic modeling by research firm BREA, more than 300,000 jobs have been lost in the United States due to the suspension of cruises.