Conditional Sailing Order Will Remain Until November, CDC Says

On Wednesday, travel groups including the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) called on the federal government and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lift its “Framework for Conditional Sailing” Order as a way to restart the cruise industry.

Thursday morning, according to CNN, the CDC responded, saying the Order would stay in place through November 1, 2021. “On October 30, 2020, CDC issued ‘Framework for Conditional Sailing’ Order (CSO) that remains in effect until November 1, 2021. Returning to passenger cruising is a phased approach to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19. Details for the next phase of the CSO are currently under interagency review,” the CDC said in a statement to CNN.

In a statement on Wednesday, ASTA president and CEO Zane Kerby said, “early indications that vaccinated individuals are not likely to spread the virus is a compelling reason to permit the resumption of cruises, especially considering the comprehensive hygiene and safety standards already put in place by the cruise lines.”

Kelly Craighead, CLIA’s president and CEO, in a separate statement, said: “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.”

According to CLIA, the “very small fraction of reported COVID cases” (fewer than 50 based on public reports) is much lower than the rate on land or in any other transportation mode. It added that, 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. The CSO was issued last October but, 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. Cruising, CLIA said, 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.

According to CLIA, restarting cruises as part of the broader travel industry will provide a much-needed boost to the U.S. economy—with the cruise industry supporting nearly 450,000 American jobs and contributing over $55.5 billion annually, prior to the pandemic.  Based on economic modeling by research firm BREA, more than 300,000 jobs 

have been lost in the United States due to the suspension of cruises.

Pete Trombetta, lodging and cruise analyst for Moody’s, said in the wake of the CDC’s denial to meet ASTA, CLIA and other’s requests, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s statement is a blow to the cruise industry as U.S. cruise operations will be suspended for another vital summer season.”

“This decision once again brings liquidity to the forefront as cruise lines, including Carnival [Corporation], Royal Caribbean [Group] and [Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings], will be looking at continued monthly cash burn for at least another 12 months. While a modest amount of cruising is expected to take place this summer, with various cruise lines moving ships to new home ports in places like Bermuda, the Bahamas and Israel, this will not be sufficient to offset the companies’ fixed costs.”

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