The cruise industry has largely been shuttered in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic. The industry, however, is starting to resist government protocols and regulations.
This week, Carnival announced that all US-based cruises through June 30 have been suspended.
As part of the announcement, Carnival President Christine Duffy threatened to move Carnival’s ports off the US coast.
“We know that this is very disappointing to our guests who continue to be eager to sail, and we remain committed to working with the Administration and the CDC to find a workable solution that best serves the interest of public health. We are asking that the cruise industry be treated on par with the approach being taken with other travel and tourism sectors, as well as U.S. society at large,” said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. “While we have not made plans to move Carnival Cruise Line ships outside of our U.S. homeports, we may have no choice but to do so in order to resume our operations which have been on ‘pause’ for over a year. We appreciate the continued patience and support from our loyal guests, travel advisors and business partners as we work on a return-to-service solution.”
Last week, the CDC issued new guidance for cruise ships, giving the industry better direction on how ships can resume normal operations.
The CDC said that coronavirus vaccination efforts will be “critical” to resuming normal operations.
But the cruise industry called these regulations “unduly burdensome, largely unworkable, and seem to reflect a zero-risk objective rather than the mitigation approach to COVID that is the basis for every other US sector of our society.”
The Cruise Line International Association said that ships have welcomed 400,000 passengers in Europe and Asia since last summer.
"The irony is that today an American can fly to any number of destinations to take a cruise, but cannot board a ship in the U.S. This deprives U.S. workers from participating in the economic recovery and does not recognize the public health advances that have been made over many months, including the ability to effectively mitigate risk on cruise ships," the organization said.
“The standard of evidence should be exceptionally high for rules that effectively single out certain industries as other parts of the economy are allowed to reopen. Restrictions have taken a disproportionately heavy toll on the travel industry and our millions of workers, and the rule preventing cruise operations is uniquely specific,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow.
The CDC called sailing during a pandemic "challenging."
"Cruising safely and responsibly during a global pandemic is difficult," the CDC said. "While cruising will always pose some risk of COVID-19 transmission, following the phases of the CSO will ensure cruise ship passenger operations are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel, particularly with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern."
The new guidance provides cruises with the following six instructions:
- Increasing from weekly to daily the reporting frequency of COVID-19 cases and illnesses.
- Implementing routine testing of all crew based on each ship’s color status.
- Updating the color-coding systemused to classify ships’ status with respect to COVID-19.
- Decreasing the time needed for a “red” ship to become “green” from 28 to 14 days based on the availability of onboard testing, routine screening testing protocols, and daily reporting.
- Creating planning materials for agreements that port authorities and local health authorities must approve to ensure cruise lines have the necessary infrastructure in place to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 on their ships to include healthcare capacity and housing to isolate infected people and quarantine those who are exposed.
- Establishing a plan and timeline for vaccination of crew and port personnel.