Friday’s news that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would move to let its “No-sail” order expire at the end of October, allowing cruise lines to begin to prepare for a phased return to service, was welcome news for the travel industry.
The industry, which supports “hundreds of thousands of jobs” according to CLIA, along with a lot of travel advisor business, can now look to start on the road back to normalcy.
While Friday’s news was good news for the cruise industry, cruise lines stressed that there is work to be done before they will be ready to welcome guests and that they will continue to work with the CDC on new protocols as they move closer to their restart.
In a statement after the news was announced, the Royal Caribbean Group, which includes Royal, Celebrity Cruises, Silversea, and Azamara, called the CDC’s decision “an important step in the right direction” but cautioned that there is a lot of work to be done to prepare its fleet to once again welcome guests.
“While we are eager to welcome our guests back on board, we have a lot to do between now and then, and we’re committed to taking the time to do things right,” Royal said. “This includes training our crew in new health and safety protocols and conduction a number of trial sailings to stress-test those protocols in real-world conditions.”
Royal said it will continue to work with the CDC and with its Healthy Sail Panel moving forward. Norwegian, who partnered with Royal on the Healthy Sail Panel, called the CDC’s directive, released on Friday, a “roadmap” to get back to sailing.
“Today the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (‘CDC’) issued the Framework for Condition Sailing Order…a roadmap for the steps the CDC will require for resumption of cruise voyages in the U.S. We will closely review the Order and continue to partner with global and domestic authorities, including the CDC, to chart a path forward.”
Initially, the CDC will require testing and additional safeguards for crew members, it said, along with onboard facilities in place to test future passengers. Then, the CDC is requiring all lines go ahead with simulate voyages “to test cruise ship operator’s ability to mitigate CoVID-19 risk.”
All ships will have to meet specific requirements for recertification and then, and only then, can cruise ships start a phased return to service. The expectation is that cruise lines, once they are certified and pass the CDC’s protocols, will start sailing with a limited number of ships, with limited capacity, and new rules like universal testing, face mask requirements, and more.
Carnival Cruise Line, for instance, had plans on the books to sail out of Miami and Port Canaveral for December. Carnival had been targeting those ports for November and December, but decided to suspend its November schedule after the CDC extended the “No-sail” order through October.
ASTA, CLIA react
In a statement on Friday, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) called the news a “welcome development.”
"While it does not equate to cruises resuming immediately, the CDC’s replacement of the draconian ‘No-Sail Order’ with a framework for a phased resumption of cruise ship operations is a welcome development and a key milestone in the restart of the travel industry,” ASTA said.
"For too long, travel advisors, consumers and others in the industry have had to deal with the catastrophic economic consequences of the No Sail Order. ASTA views this as a positive first step and urges the CDC to work as expeditiously as possible with cruise lines, state and local public health authorities and other cruise community stakeholders to support the safe resumption of cruise operations from U.S. ports."
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), which represents 95% of global ocean-going cruise capacity, said that its members are “100% committed to helping to protect the health of our guests, our crew, and the communities we serve.”
“While we look forward to reviewing the new Order in detail, we expect much of the Healthy Sail Panel’s recommendations, which were adopted by CLIA’s Global Board of Directors earlier this month, have been considered and will serve as an important foundation,” CLIA president Kelly Craighead said.
“The cruise industry and the CDC have a long track record of working together in the interest of public health, and we look forward to continuing to build upon this legacy to support the resumption of cruising from U.S. ports.
“With enhanced measures in place, and with the continued guidance of leading experts in health and science as well as the CDC, we are confident that a resumption of cruising in the U.S. is possible to support the economic recovery while maintaining a focus on effective and science-based measures to protect public health.”