It’s the news the entire North American cruise market has been waiting for since March last year, when the cruise industry ground to a halt worldwide – the CDC has finally provided guidance on the potential resumption of US cruises.
In a letter to cruise line executives, the CDC indicated that it was warming to the idea of cruises resuming from US ports, appearing to group the risk of COVID-19 transmission among the other risks associated with carrying passengers at sea.
“We acknowledge that cruising will never be a zero-risk activity and that the goal of the CSO’s (Framework for Conditional Sailing Order) phased approach is to resume passenger operations in a way that mitigates the risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard cruise ships and across port communities,” the letter read.
According to USA Today, the letter was sent by Aimee Treffiletti, head of the Maritime Unit for CDC’s COVID-19 response within its Global Mitigation Task Force for COVID-19.
USA Today quoted an official with the CDC as verifying the existence of the letter and further clarifying that the CDC now foresees a potential resumption of US cruises by July, provided at least 95% of passengers, and 98% of crew, are fully vaccinated.
“[The] CDC looks forward to continued engagement with the industry and urges cruise lines to submit Phase 2A port agreements as soon as possible to maintain the timeline of passenger voyages by mid-July,” saidspokesperson Caitlin Shockey.
It’s widely expected by the cruise industry that the existing Conditional Sailing Order, which has been heavily criticised, might soon be simplified so that cruise line’s have a clearer idea of how to gain and maintain compliance.
During Royal Caribbean Cruises’ first quarter earnings call on Thursday, Chairman and CEO of the group, Richard Fain, said the letter had clarified several uncertainties raised by the cruise industry.
“Last night, the CDC notified us of some clarifications and amplifications of their Conditional Sail Order, which addressed uncertainties and concerns we had raised,” Fain said. “They have dealt with many of these items in a constructive manner that takes into account recent advances in vaccines and medical science.”
“Although this is only part of a very complex process, it encourages us that we now see a pathway to a healthy and achievable return to service, hopefully in time for an Alaskan season,” he added.
The July deadline for the resumption of US cruises has been cited by the cruise industry as hugely important because it marks the beginning of the summer months, which are traditionally the peak season for cruises in Alaska and the Caribbean and will provide the industry with much needed revenue.