WASHINGTON, D.C. — CLIA has issued a call to the CDC to lift its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) and allow for the planning of a phased resumption of cruise operations from U.S. ports by the start of July 2021.
U.S. President Biden has said in recent days that July 4, 2021 could be Independence Day from COVID-19 for the U.S., with more than 2 million vaccination shots per day right now.
There are also reports that President Biden could reopen the U.S. border to the UK and EU by mid-May 2021.
CLIA says its early-July timeframe for its request to the CDC is in line with President Biden’s forecast for when the United States will be “closer to normal.”
Kelly Craighead, CLIA’s President and CEO, says: “Over the past eight months, a highly-controlled resumption of cruising has continued in Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific — with nearly 400,000 passengers sailing to date in more than 10 major cruise markets. These voyages were successfully completed with industry-leading protocols that have effectively mitigated the spread of COVID-19. Additional sailings are planned in the Mediterranean and Caribbean later this spring and summer.”
Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Crystal Cruises have all announced a return to cruising this summer with planned itineraries in Mexico, the Caribbean and the Bahamas.
CLIA says the very small fraction of reported COVID cases (fewer than 50 based on public reports) is dramatically lower than the rate on land or in any other transportation mode.
“This is a testament to the industry’s unparalleled expertise, gained over more than half a century, in coordinating movements of guests and crew, efficiently organizing complex embarkations and excursions, and designing vessels that are more technologically advanced and operationally agile than any other mode of transportation,” said Craighead.
She adds: “The cruise industry has adopted a high bar for resumption around the world with a multi-layered set of policies that is intended to be revised as conditions change. Our Members continue to follow this multi-layered approach to enhancing health and safety that has proven effective, making cruising one of the best and most adaptable choices for travel,” she added.
Craighead also noted “the accelerated rollout of vaccines is a game-changer in providing for the health and well-being of the public, especially in the United States, where President Biden expects all adults will be eligible for vaccinations by May 1, 2021.”
Following the industry’s voluntary suspension of operations one year ago, cruise lines have been prevented from operating in the U.S. by a series of No Sail Orders issued by the CDC.
And while the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) was issued last 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, notes CLIA, adding that 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 Craighead.
She added that some cruise lines have announced a few sailings catering to those who have received vaccinations, CLIA does not currently have a policy related to vaccines.
She says CLIA and its members are exploring a workable approach for how to consider vaccinations, once widely available, as part of robust protocols.