A Congressional delegation from Alaska has once again sent a letter on behalf of the cruise industry in order to get cruise ships sailing again.
U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and Congressman Don Young, all R-Alaska, sent a letter with colleagues to the White House COVID Response Coordinator, urging the Biden administration to be more transparent and timely in their efforts to develop guidance for the resumption of operations for the cruise ship industry.
In the letter, the Senators and Representative also pressed the White House for answers to a number of clarifying questions on current U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.
In the letter, the CDC's inaction is squarely at the heart of the concern.
- When will the CDC provide more details related to the phases of its Framework for Conditional Sailing?
- What criteria does the CDC use to determine the next phase of reopening? What is the timeline?
- What more does the cruise industry need to do to assure the CDC it is ready for the safe resumption of operations?
- Does the CDC understand the economic impact its lack of communication and transparency has on the cruise industry and associated businesses and local communities? What is the Administration’s plan to create more open lines of communication between government and the private sector?
- Who is the official that has responsibility for the decisions about when and how the cruise industry can restart under the restrictions put in place by the CDC?
- What is the process, either within the CDC, or within the Administration to make and implement these decisions, and what other agencies are involved in the decision
- When the Conditional Sailing Order was issued last October, there were no vaccines and the disease was on an upward trajectory. Today, we are in completely different
public health environment. What is the CDC planning to do to address this very different set of circumstances?
The Alaska delegation has been vocal in recent weeks trying to get cruise ships sailing again, so that the 2021 Alaska cruise season can be salvaged.
The letter urged swift action, "The cruise industry has faced unique challenges amid this pandemic, and is one of the only industries that is completely precluded from resuming normal operations. This has created a dramatic negative ripple effect on the Florida and Alaskan families, businesses, ports and communities that rely on the cruise industry"
"If the CDC does not quickly commit to start communicating timely and effective guidance, as well as hold frequent and productive meetings with cruise industry stakeholders, it will have harmful impacts on another peak season for the cruise industry."
Alaska is especially vulnerable to another season of no cruise ships because of how much their economy relies on ships.
The entire cruise season was abandoned last year, and this year looks to be equally dire.
"The future of the cruise industry and thousands of good paying jobs at our states’ ports and supporting businesses are now at stake," they wrote in the letter.
Alaska's representatives to Congress have done the most to get cruises started again.
In February, they asked Canada to re-evaluate their ban on cruise ships. Then in March, they introduced a new bill to allow cruise ships to sail without having to stop in Canada.
Senator Murkowski grilled CDC Director Rochelle Walensky last week after the Director failed to provide any kind of timeline for cruises to restart and was unsure how that would even proceed.
Senator Murkowski says Alaska is one of the most vaccinated states in the country, with 18.9% of its population full vaccinated, and 28% having at least their first shot.