As you would expect, cruise-selling travel advisors and organizations were very happy to see a positive update from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) that cruising from the U.S. tentatively could resume by mid-July.
"I think it is a very hopeful sign. I know the cruise lines have been waiting on being able to cruise from the U.S. for several months," said Ruth Turpin, owner of Cruises Etc. in Fort Worth, Texas, and one of the country's top cruise specialists. "I also know they have been working hard on having all the safety protocols in place, so I feel they are very close to being ready for this. The major cruise line executives have worked very hard with the CDC to make this happen. Yes, there is light at the end of that very long tunnel we have had."
The CDC on Thursday released a letter that said its senior leaders have been meeting twice-weekly with cruise executives over the past month.
"Within these meetings, participants asked questions and discussed the fastest path back to sailing without compromising safety," the letter said. "CDC remains committed to the resumption of passenger operations in the U.S. following the requirements in the conditional sail order by mid-summer, which aligns with the goals announced by many major cruise lines and travelers. CDC looks forward to continued engagement with the industry and urges cruise lines to submit Phase 2A port agreements as soon as possible to maintain the timeline of passenger voyages by mid-July."
The cruise industry has grown frustrated over recent months after being idled since March 2020 and receiving no firm timeline or guidelines to restart. The states of Florida and Alaska sued the CDC in an effort to resume cruising. And Frank Del Rio, chairman of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, sent two letters to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky asking to resume operations by July 4.
So, the CDC statement was welcome news.
"We couldn't be more thrilled," said Michelle Fee, founder and CEO of Cruise Planners. "Spirits are very high among our travel advisors, cruise line partners and home office team. We've all been optimistic, but the latest news has been a significant move in the right direction to a safe return of cruising and we are highly encouraged for sailings from US ports by mid-July."
Drew Daly, senior vice president and general manager of Dream Vacations, CruiseOne and Cruises Inc., shared a similar reaction.
"Waking up to the recent CDC news was just an awesome feeling! We have all waited a long time to hear that the CDC is listening and beyond excited they are beginning to respond," Daly said. "Our agents are elated to hear this news and are ready to sell more and sail soon. Without a doubt, this exciting news is going to help us continue to grow our cruise sales."
John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Group, called the news "very positive. It provides needed clarity to the industry and is being very well received. Let's hope we see a return to U.S. homeport cruising in the early-July timeframe."
The Cruise Lines International Association said it was "encouraged" by the CDC communication. "Our technical experts are currently reviewing the information and its implications, but we are optimistic that these clarifications show positive progression - and, importantly, a demonstrated commitment to constructive dialogue, which is key to restarting cruising as we have seen with other governments and health authorities around the world.
"It also shows that the voices of community leaders and the wider cruise community are being heard - and we are very grateful for that," the CLIA statement continued. "Plenty of work remains in order to achieve our mutual goal of responsible resumption from U.S. ports this summer. Doing so will put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work and further support the nation's economic recovery from the pandemic."
Said Jeff Anderson, co-president of Avoya: "The science has shown for many months that COVID-19 is no longer as threatening for most Americans as previously worried. The unintended hardships to both consumers and businesses caused by the CDC's decisions have been staggering, so we're thrilled the CDC has provided actionable details for the restart of cruising from U.S. ports. Other regions of the world have been safely cruising for many months, so it's great to have plenty of evidence to prove how safe cruising is. Americans will finally be able to depart on the vacation they've been waiting for and they've never deserved a break more than now!"
Fee said consumers shouldn't delay booking a cruise.
"Consumers should be thinking, 'if I want to sail on a cruise ship in the next 18 months, I need to begin making those plans now to get the best deals," she said. "Once the first U.S. cruise sails, it will further boost consumer confidence and demand for cruising. Cruise Planners is seeing bookings for departures much farther out as well. In fact, Cruise Planners sales for 2022 departures are up by 60 percent compared to the same time in 2019, which was our best year ever. All good signs that consumer demand is strong."
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