As cruise ship operators gear up to resume operations in several areas of the world except the US, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has called upon the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lift the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).
This would allow for the planning of a phased resumption of cruise operations from US ports by the beginning of July, which is in line with President Biden’s forecast for when the US will be “closer to normal.”
“Over the past eight months, a highly-controlled resumption of cruising has continued in Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific—with nearly 400,000 passengers sailing to date in more than 10 major cruise markets.
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,” Kelly Craighead, CLIA’s President and CEO (pictured) explained.
CLIA pointed out that the very small fraction of reported COVID cases (fewer than 50 based on public reports) is dramatically lower than the rate on land or in any other transportation mode.
“This is a testament to the industry’s unparalleled expertise, gained over more than half a century, in co-ordinating movements of guests and crew, efficiently organising complex embarkations and excursions, and designing vessels that are more technologically advanced and operationally agile than any other mode of transportation,” Craighead stressed.
“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. 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,” she added, noting; “the accelerated rollout of vaccines is a gamechanger in providing for the health and well-being of the public, especially in the US, where President Biden expects all adults will be eligible for vaccinations by 1st May, 2021.”
Following the industry’s voluntary suspension of operations a year ago, cruise lines have been prevented from operating in the US by a series of ‘No Sail Orders’ issued by the CDC. The CSO was issued last October, but since then the CDC has not released any further guidance, as called for in the CSO, to support the resumption of US cruise operations.
The lack of any action by the CDC has effectively banned all sailings in the largest cruise market in the world. Cruising is the only sector of the US economy that remains prohibited, even as most others have opened or continued to operate throughout the pandemic.
“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. Cruise lines should be treated the same as other travel, tourism, hospitality, and entertainment sectors,” Craighead said.
While some cruise lines have announced a few sailings only open to those who have received vaccinations, CLIA does not have a policy related to vaccines. However, the association and its members are exploring a workable approach for how to consider vaccinations, once widely available, as part of robust protocols.
CLIA claimed that restarting cruises as part of the broader travel industry will provide a much-needed boost to the US economy—with the cruise industry supporting nearly 450,000 American jobs and contributing over $55.5 bill annually, prior to the pandemic.
Based on economic modelling by research firm BREA, more than 300,000 US jobs have been lost, due to the suspension of cruises. The majority of those impacted are independent business owners or individuals employed by small- to medium-sized businesses—including travel agents, taxi drivers, port employees, baggage handlers, and longshoremen, as well as airline, hotel, and restaurant workers.
The CDC has reportedly countered that the CSO will remain place until 1st November this year, despite industry calls to revoke it.