It appears that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has shifted its stance on the return of U.S. cruising.
In a newly issued statement, initially reported by Bloomberg, the agency indicated a limited resumption of domestic U.S. cruises may be achievable by this summer.
“CDC is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising following the phased approach outlined in the conditional sailing order,” a spokesperson told TMR. “This goal aligns with the desire to resume passenger operations in the United States expressed by many major cruise ship operators and travelers; hopefully, by mid-summer with restricted revenue sailings.”
“COVID-19 vaccination efforts will be critical in the safe resumption of passenger operations, especially as more variants emerge and spread around the world.”
The CDC previously stated in late March that the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) will remain in effect until Nov. 1, 2021. Then, on April 2, the second phase of the conditional order was released, but did not provide a restart date.
The new language of the technical instructions included requiring cruise lines to report COVID-19 cases and illnesses daily instead of weekly to the CDC; implement a new color-coding system to classify a ship’s COVID status, and decrease the time it takes for a ship to go from “red” to green” in that system from 28 to 114 days.
The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) called the new requirements “unduly burdensome” and “largely unworkable,” and urged the Biden Administration end the CSO this month to allow for the planning of a “controlled return” to cruising this summer.
Other industry groups, including ASTA, as well as major cruise lines pushed the CDC to allow cruise lines to restart this summer, as cruise lines looked outside of the United States to restart sailings. Norwegian Cruise Line, Seabourn, and Viking announced they would restart cruise operations in new homeports in Bermuda, Iceland, Greece, and the Caribbean.
Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy's on Tuesday said the line may be forced to pull the line's vessels from their U.S. homeports if the agency continues to prevent the restart of domestic cruising and is extending the suspension of U.S. operations through the end of June.
“While we have not made plans to move Carnival Cruise Line ships outside of our U.S. homeports, we may have no choice but to do so in order to resume our operations which have been on 'pause' for over a year,” Duffy said in the statement. “We appreciate the continued patience and support from our loyal guests, travel advisors and business partners as we work on a return-to-service solution.’
Meanwhile, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, which includes NCL, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, and Oceania Cruise, submitted its restart plan targeting July.