While there seemed to be some good news coming out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, doubts still remain about the U.S.’s cruising restart.
Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio on Thursday said that, despite the CDC issuing rules for trial cruises, he is still not sure about the potential of this summer’s restart.
“I seriously doubt we will be able to stand up a vessel out of a U.S. port in July, Del Rio told CNBC in an interview on Thursday. “August is also in jeopardy and it’s all because of the disjointed guidelines from the CDC.”
Norwegian will start cruising in July in Europe and in the Caribbean, but its U.S. restart is still on hold. Del Rio told CNBC that what NCLH received from the CDC this week was “anything but a clear path to restarting” despite the efforts of NCLH and the other cruise companies in the industry.
“We put forth a very ironclad proposal to the CDC about a month ago where we are mandating a 100% vaccination for both crew and passengers, onto that we are going to layer in the 74 protocols that the Healthy Sail Panel led by Scott Gottlieb put together. So we believe that our vessels will be the safest place on earth,” he said.
“Yet, rather than ease on the demands and the requirements by the CDC, they seem to double down on the cruise industry. Can you imagine having to take on your mask and take off your mask in between bites of your meal or in between sips of a drink? It’s absurd,” Del Rio said.
Unfair treatment of the cruise industry by the CDC has been a target of ASTA, as well. ASTA CEO Zane Kerby, in a statement from last month, came out in support of a lawsuit filed by the state of Florida against the CDC that would remove restrictions on cruise travel.
ASTA’s position is that the unfair treatment of the cruise industry is harming more than 150,000 American travel advisors who are the worldwide sales channel for the industry.
“We find the CDC’s position singling out cruising perplexing given that nearly every other group activity one can envision - from attending sporting events to dining indoors in restaurants to visiting movie theaters and gyms, not to mention traveling by air and staying in hotels - has already resumed safely with masking requirements and social distancing protocols in place,” Kerby said.
For now, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings intends to continue its restart outside of the U.S., including outside of Florida, a state that has traditionally been the most popular for U.S. homeports. And while the CDC’s position may prevent it from sailing out of the U.S. for the time being, even if the CDC does lift its order, another issue may arise.
A new law signed by Florida’s governor prevents businesses from checking on an individual’s vaccination status, something that NCLH is requiring for its initial restart. During the company’s conference call this week, Del Rio said that there would be a solution for that issue, as well.
“At the end of the day, cruise ships have motors, propellers, and rudders, and God forbid we can’t operate in the state of Florida for whatever reason, then there are other states that we do operate from, and we can operate from the Caribbean for a ship that otherwise would have gone to Florida,” he said, adding that NCLH has been in touch with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on a potential solution.