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Florida Ports: Significant cruise ship numbers may take another year to return

In:
04 Feb 2021
By: 
Matt Hochberg

The road to recovery for cruise lines is not going to be a swift or easy one.

At a meeting of Florida's Senate Transportation Committee, Florida Ports Council Vice President of Governmental Affairs, Michael Rubin, said it will be a while yet before cruise ship operations return to "significant" numbers.

"I’m not sure we’ll have significant cruise operations until perhaps next year and even beyond that," Rubin told the committee.

"Some of the smaller luxury liners … may not be operating till further than that, until there’s actual vaccines available around the world. We are concerned. We’re hopeful that they’ll allow them to operate at least half capacity here maybe in April, maybe in June. Hopefully, before that timeframe, because this is really, really troubling."

Rubin represents the Florida Ports Council, which is a nonprofit group that represents major seaports in Florida. 

Rubin added that cruise lines are working to meet an “onerous” list of requirements from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), with the hope of having some ships operating at half capacity by the summer of 2021.

According to Rubin, one issue that has remained is to figure out is how to handle cruise passengers getting on or off a ship in a port of call.

Mr. Rubin believes some high profile stories about cases on cruise ships from early 2020 are hindering progress to resume operations, "As you know, there was some high-profile incidents of passengers trying to get off and a few deaths out there."

"So, we’re living with those high-profile incidents, and it can’t seem to get past it. … I think all of our ports and the cruise lines are trying to work with the CDC to say, ‘Look, we’re gonna have protocols, we’ll have masks, we’ll sail at half capacity so we can quarantine people if they need to be quarantined.’"

He believes when cruises do restart, the cruise lines will adopt a series of new rules, "I think all of our ports and the cruise lines are trying to work with the CDC to say we’ll have protocols, we’ll have masks, we’ll sail at half capacity so we can quarantine people if they need to be quarantined."

The CDC recently added a new order that requires anyone on a cruise ship to wear a face mask.

Mr. Rubin's comments come a few weeks after Port Canaveral estimated some cruises might return in July. Neither Port Canaveral nor Mr. Rubin's comments are based on any cruise line statements.

Royal Caribbean Group Chairman and CEO Richard Fain tackled the question of when cruises might restart with the answer everyone has known for months: no one yet knows for certain.

"My answer is consistently, I don't know. But more recently, my answer has been, I don't know, but that's the good direction to be going in."

"It's going to take a while and we just need to be patient."

"But it is happening and these early cruises are going to give us information that will help inform how we can operate safely and that's going to give us all confidence in an earlier and safer restart."