As the U.S. cruises industry received the green light to resume sailing this summer, the industry reacts saying it’s a “significant move in the right direction.”
Cruise industry leaders have been encouraged by a letter sent by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday that said it is committed to restarting passenger operations in the U.S. by midsummer. According to USA Today, CDC officials wrote that while cruising “will never be a zero-risk activity,” the agency is committed to getting passenger operations in the U.S. up and running.
“This is very exciting news. Finally, the CDC has responded to the cruise industry with game-changing guidance to restart cruising in the U.S. This newly defined approach includes common sense recommendations, including CDC’s focus on cruise passengers that drive-in for cruises, which could expedite the resumption of cruise operations at Port Canaveral,” said Capt. John Murray, CEO Canaveral Port Authority, in press materials.
Upon learning about the CDC’s update, Cruise Planners’ founder & CEO Michelle Fee said in a press statement, “We couldn’t be more thrilled. Spirits are very high among our travel advisors, cruise line partners and Home Office Team. We’ve all been optimistic, but the latest news has been a significant move in the right direction to a safe return of cruising and we are highly encouraged for sailings from U.S. ports by mid-July.”
Cruise ships have resumed sailing in different parts of the world, including Greece and the UK, and are departing from ports in the Caribbean and Bermuda—but they have not been allowed to sail from the U.S. since last March. That said, small ship and river cruise companies such as American Cruise Lines have been sailing the rivers and coastlines of the U.S. and many of these small ship cruise lines will be sailing in Alaska this summer.
Although its original requirement was that cruise operators would need to complete a simulated trip to demonstrate their COVID safety protocols, the CDC now says that won’t be necessary if a ship can prove that 95 percent of its passengers and 98 percent of its crew have been fully vaccinated.
“We’re really very pleased and very excited because it really does set forth a pathway that we think is achievable, practical and safe,” said Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain on CNBC. “Eighty percent of our guests already say they intend to get the vaccines regardless, so one way or the other, we think this provides a route.”
“This is the time every cruiser has been waiting for. As more people are vaccinated and more countries are opening to tourists, Cruise Planners travel advisors are becoming increasingly busy with new bookings. Consumers deserve a vacation and want to make up for lost time,” added Fee. “Consumers should be thinking, if ‘I want to sail on a cruise ship in the next 18 months, I need to begin making those plans now to get the best deals.’
“Once the first U.S. cruise sails, it will further boost consumer confidence and demand for cruising. Cruise Planners is seeing bookings for departures much farther out as well,” said Fee. “In fact, Cruise Planners’ sales for 2022 departures are up by 60 percent compared to the same time in 2019, which was our best year ever. All good signs that consumer demand is strong.”
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A version of story first appeared in Prevue.