The CRUISE Act, a bill that would have allowed an American cruise restart by July 4th, has been blocked by the Senate, eight days after it was introduced.
Florida Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio and Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan introduced the Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements Act (CRUISE Act) in order to revoke the CDC’s Conditional Sailing Order.
The Act further called on the CDC to provide COVID-19 mitigation guidance for cruise lines to resume safe domestic operations.
The bill was blocked by Senator Patty Murray of Washington, who said that although he supported an American cruise restart in principle, he could not allow corners to be cut when it comes to safety.
“While I am as eager as anyone else to see a return to travel, we cannot cut corners,” he said. “Doing so risks lives and will only further delay returning to normal, hurting our economy more in the long run.”
“We must trust the science, and we must allow the CDC to continue its work to help us return to what we love as safely as possible,” he added. “So I will continue to work with CDC and the administration as they develop the next phase of their cruising guidance, but for now, I object.”
Senator Murray said that “cruise ships require specific focus and protocols in place to prevent future outbreaks.” Senator Scott said he was “disappointed” by Senator Murray’s objection.
While cruise operations have been allowed to resume in the Mediterranean, without any incidence of COVID-19 thanks to enhanced safety protocols, in the United States the CDC has continued to require cruise line’s to apply for permission on a ship-by-ship basis.
However, the Conditional Sailing Order is a four-phase process and cruise lines have only been able to comply with the first phase, without any guidance on what will be required in phase 2, making an American cruise restart likely only in a year or more.
It’s for this reason that Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fein has described the process as unworkable, describing the Conditional Sailing Order as “out of date”.
Fein has said the CDC should “move on in light of the dramatic change we’ve seen in three areas: the vaccines, testing and contact tracing.”
It’s the combination of these three factors that have led the UK to allow domestic cruises to resume in May, while in the Mediterranean cruise lines are resuming operations from Italy and the Greek Isles.
The CDC’s delay in providing guidance on the requirements for phase 2, or even a timeline for when phase 2 might be implemented, has led many of the major North American cruise lines to switch homeports from the US to the Caribbean.
They’re attempting to implement an American cruise restart by default, by selling fly-cruise packages to the North American market, instead of sailing from US homeports.
Sailing from Montego Bay, Norwegian Joy’s port calls include Harvest Caye, Roatan, Cozumel and Ocho Rios. Sailing from La Romana in the Dominican Republic, Norwegian Gem will visit Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Maarten and Antigua.
Celebrity Cruises and Royal Caribbean are also planning to resume cruises in the Caribbean.
Celebrity Cruises will restart cruising in June, homeporting Celebrity Millennium in St.Maarten, while Royal Caribbean International will restart cruising the same month, but from Nassau aboard Adventure of the Seas.
Carnival Cruise Line has not yet announced a Caribbean fly-cruise season, but has suggested it may be forced to do so if the CDC continues to hold out on providing guidance regarding the Conditional Sailing Order.
However, the CDC appears to have countered these moves by advising against all travel to the Bahamas, where its capital, Nassau, is one of the main homeports for the coming Caribbean season.