On a business update call, Arnold Donald, the CEO of Carnival Corporation, said that the cruise industry is not being treated fairly by the CDC compared to other transport sectors.
“Today, [American’s] can fly and cruise in Europe and return home without being vaccinated,” he said. “But even if you are vaccinated you cannot cruise out of the United States.”
“We are standing by the CDC, but we want to be treated similarly to other travel industries, tourism and entertainment,” he added.
Those comments were in response to the CDC’s recent guidance to Americans that fully vaccinated travelers pose a low threat to the public, although it was still not recommending travel unless absolutely necessary.
Last week, the CDC updated its Conditional Sailing Order for cruise ships, but didn’t provide a schedule for when cruises might resume from US Ports, a move that Donald said was disappointing.
Donald said he was “very disappointed” in the CDC’s guidance, adding that Carnival Corporation has 30 ships in U.S. waters that have achieved “green status” per CDC guidelines.
He said the company was continuing to work with the agency and current administration to find practical approaches to resume cruising in a way that is in the best interest of public health.
Donald also noted that 400,000 Europeans had cruised safely in Europe since the pandemic started, with passengers sailing in Europe on ships with health protocols without being vaccinated and without major incidents.
Part of Donald, and the wider cruise industry’s, frustration with the CDC’s refusal to give any guidance on the timing of a restart is due to the time it will take to bring ships back into service with compliance with the Conditional Sailing Order.
Carnival Corporation operates a fleet of 90 vessels across nine cruise lines, and according to Donald 59 of those ships are not yet in compliance with the Conditional Sailing Order.
Ships can only be brought into compliance with significant investment in hardware and crew training. Making that investment is difficult for cruise line’s to justify when the CDC has not given a timeline for resumption of cruises in the US.
When the CDC does give the go ahead, the biggest restraint will be to ramp up and train crew, according to Donald. He estimated this could take 60 to 90 days per ship, echoing comments made by Norwegian Cruise Line.
Meanwhile, an official with the CDC has said the agency may be open to lifting or modifying its Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) as soon as this summer, according to a Bloomberg report.
The spokesperson said the agency’s “goal aligns with the desire to resume passenger operations in the United States expressed by many major cruise ship operators and travelers; hopefully, by mid-summer with restricted revenue sailings.”