Cruise industry pressures CDC for green light to sail by July, calls ban 'outdated'
By Hannah Sampson
A trade group representing most of the world's cruise lines is pressing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow ships to start sailing again from American ports by early July, calling the U.S. cruise ban "outdated."
"The lack of any action by the CDC has effectively banned all sailings in the largest cruise market in the world," the Cruise Lines International Association said in a statement Wednesday. The group said a July restart would bring the industry in line with President Joe Biden's goal of "getting the nation closer to normal" by Fourth of July.
Major cruise lines stopped sailing from the United States in March 2020. The CDC issued a no-sail order that month and has not allowed ships to sail from the country since.
In the meantime, lines have resumed operations in other parts of the world including Europe, Asia and the South Pacific. A few have announced plans in recent days to cater to North Americans from Caribbean ports.
Since starting again, nearly 400 000 passengers have sailed in more than 10 markets with safety measures such as testing, mask-wearing and distancing in place, the association said. Based on public reports that the group tracks, there have been fewer than 50 reported cases of the coronavirus.
"The cruise industry has adopted a high bar for resumption around the world with a multilayered set of policies that is intended to be revised as conditions change," CLIA President and CEO Kelly Craighead said in the statement.
She said in the statement that the CDC's "outdated" conditional sailing order "does not reflect the industry's proven advancements and success operating in other parts of the world, nor the advent of vaccines,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."
The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Several cruise lines have announced that they will require passengers and crew to be vaccinated. Some have required vaccinations for adult passengers on specific sailings.
The group called the rollout of vaccinations a "game-changer" but said it does not have a vaccine policy.
"The organisation and its members are exploring a workable approach for how to consider vaccinations, once widely available, as part of robust protocols," the statement said.
The CLIA statement is the latest request for more certainty around a return to cruising. The mayor of Miami-Dade County, which boasts the world's busiest cruise port, last week urged the CDC to work on a plan to restart cruises by July 4. Last week during a Senate hearing, Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski asked CDC Director Rochelle Walensky for a timeline, which she could not give. Alaska relies heavily on cruise tourism.
And the president and CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors, Zane Kerby, released a statement Tuesday calling on the CDC to lift restrictions on cruising and set a restart date of July 1.
"The CDC's continued inaction in removing cruise restrictions imperil livelihoods and communities in South Florida, up to now the de facto cruise capital of the world, and far beyond," he said in the statement. "It is a shame that the CDC's inflexibility has brought us to this point."