Some cruise industry leaders expressed measured optimism about the CDC's framework for a conditional return to operations, saying they understand the grave importance of preventing COVID-19 outbreaks on ships.
Royal Caribbean Group called the Oct. 30 announcement by the CDC "a positive step," while the Cruise Lines International Association said it is "committed to resume sailing in a responsible manner that keeps public health in the forefront."
The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) noted the financial hardship the no-sail order imposed on travel advisors.
"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 in a statement. "We have petitioned the Administration and the CDC over the course of nearly six months. Our ask: guidance on how cruise lines and travelers can manage health risks while cruising.
"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."
Carnival Cruise Line said it will continue to work with the CDC on a return to cruise operations. "We are evaluating the CDC's new order that sets out the conditions under which cruising can resume, but there are a significant number of requirements that must be evaluated in the context of our plans to resume operations," Carnival said. "We ask our guests, travel advisors and community and destination partners for their patience as we complete our review. We are committed to communicating more details as soon as possible."
Royal Caribbean Group said it is dedicated to a safe and healthy return to operations.
"Today's announcement establishes a pathway for our ships to return to service, and that's an important step in the right direction. 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. This includes training our crew in new health and safety protocols and conducting a number of trial sailings to stress-test those protocols in real-world conditions," Royal Caribbean Group said in a statement. "We will continue to work closely with both CDC and the Healthy Sail Panel as we make our plans, and we are confident in our ability to mitigate the risks of the pandemic and protect the health of our guests, our crew, and the communities where we sail."
The Healthy Sail Panel was convened by Royal Caribbean Group and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and included experts in public health. The panel submitted a 65-page report including 74 detailed best practices to the CDC on Sept. 21.
"CDC and the cruise industry have the same goal: A return to passenger sailing, but only when it's safe," said former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, co-chair of the Healthy Sail Panel. "Under the CDC's Framework for Conditional Sailing Order, cruise lines have been given a pathway to systematically demonstrate their ability to sail while keeping passengers, crew and their destination ports safe and healthy."
CLIA which represents 95 percent of global ocean-going cruise capacity, said its cruise line members are "100 percent" committed to protecting the health of passengers, crew and people in ports of call.
"Guided by the recommendations of leading experts in health and science, including the Healthy Sail Panel (HSP), we will continue to evolve our approach as circumstances evolve," CLIA said. "The economic consequences of the ongoing suspension of service are felt in communities across the United States and with hundreds of thousands of jobs at stake, we are committed to resume sailing in a responsible manner that keeps public health in the forefront. We look forward to reviewing the order in greater detail and working with the CDC to advance a return to cruising from U.S. ports."
CLIA said its cruise line members have been in a voluntary suspension of operations from U.S. ports for over seven months. Noting the return of limited cruising in Europe, CLIA said enhanced measures include 100 percent testing for all passengers and crew before boarding a ship, mask-wearing, physical distancing requirements, highly controlled shore excursions and more.
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