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Cruise industry calls on CDC to let cruise ships sail again

24 Mar 2021
Matt Hochberg

A cruise industry association has called on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to let cruise ships restart.

CLIA officially called on the CDC to lift the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), citing it being "outdated" and not reflective of current conditions.

Specifically, CLIA wants the CSO lifted so that cruise ships can restart sailings form the United States at the beginning of July, to match President Biden’s forecast for when the United States will be “closer to normal.” 

By lifting the CSO, cruise lines would not have to conduct test sailings, or any of the other requirements outlined by the CSO. Instead, cruise lines would implement new health protocols and rule changes aimed at making ships as safe as possible.

CLIA cites statistics of extremely low Covid-19 rates on cruise ships sailing elsewhere in the world as proof cruises can operate safely. Ships sailing in Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific have carried almost 400,000 passengers and had fewer than 50 based on public reports. This is "dramatically lower than the rate on land or in any other transportation mode."

Moreover, CLIA says the CDC has failed to follow through with the spirit of the CSO when it was implemented back in October 2020. 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 lack of any action by the CDC has effectively banned all sailings in the largest cruise market in the world," CLIA said in a press release. "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"The outdated CSO, which was issued almost five months ago, does not reflect the industry’s proven advancements and success operating in other parts of the world, nor the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, " said Kelly Craighead, CLIA’s President and CEO.  

Proving CLIA's point, Carnival Cruise Line's CEO recently pointed out they are still waiting for instructions from the CDC on how to proceed.

By keeping cruise lines shutdown, CLIA says it has cost jobs and revenue to the U.S. economy.

CLIA estimates restarting cruises as part of the broader travel industry will provide a much-needed boost to the U.S. economy—with the cruise industry supporting nearly 450,000 American jobs and contributing over $55.5 billion annually, prior to the pandemic.  

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. 

While the U.S. remains on the sidelines of cruising, Royal Caribbean and other lines have begun plans to sail from other countries in order to bypass the CDC.

Royal Caribbean will offer Adventure of the Seas and Vision of the Seas this summer from the Bahamas and Bermuda, respectively. Celebrity Cruises will sail from St. Maarten on the Celebrity Millennium.

The rationale for the No Sail Order and the CSO has been a fear that cruise ships are inherently unsafe because Covid-19 can more easily spread there.

In the CDC's Executive Summary of the No Sail Order, they cite data on COVID-19 cases aboard cruise ships from early 2020 as impetus for the rule.