Cruising from U.S. ports may not resume until mid-July after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) extended its No Sail Order for another 100 days, or until Covid-19 is no longer deemed a public health threat.
In an April 9 directive, the CDC said that "cruise ship travel markedly increases the risk and impact of the Covid-19 outbreak within the United States" and cited recent episodes involving cruise ships and coronavirus.
"The measures we are taking today to stop the spread of Covid-19 are necessary to protect Americans," CDC director Robert Redfield said in a statement.
This order also requires cruise lines to develop a comprehensive, detailed plan approved by CDC and the U.S. Coast Guard to address the Covid-19 pandemic that includes passengers and crew medical screenings; training crew on Covid-19 prevention; and managing and responding to an outbreak onboard.
CLIA voluntarily suspended cruise operations in March in conjunction with the CDC's earlier No Sail Order issued March 14. The CDC said that since then the industry has been working to build an "illness response framework to combat Covid-19 on ships with international crew members who remain on board and at sea."
The CDC and said that there are approximately 100 cruise ships in U.S. territorial waters with nearly 80,000 crew onboard, and 20 cruise ships at port or anchorage in the U.S. with known or suspected Covid-19 infection among the crew onboard. It said the evacuation, triage and repatriation of cruise ship crew has involved "complex logistics, incurs financial costs at all levels of government and diverts resources away from larger efforts to suppress or mitigate Covid-19."
In response to the extension, CLIA said in a statement that the CDC was unfairly targeting the cruise industry, and said that each day of suspension meant a $92 million hit to the economy.
"While it's easy to focus on cruising because of its high profile, the fact is cruising is neither the source or cause of the virus or its spread," the association said. "What is different about the cruise industry is the very stringent reporting requirements applicable to vessels that do not apply to comparable venues on land where the spread of communicable disease is just as prevalent. It would be a false assumption to connect higher frequency and visibility in reporting to a higher frequency of infection."
CLIA also expressed concern about the "unintended consequences" of the No Sail Order, saying that cruise activity supports transportation, food and beverage, lodging, manufacturing, agriculture, travel agencies and travel agents, plus a broad range of supply chain industries and small businesses across the U.S. CLIA said that if the suspension were to last a year, the total economic impact in the U.S. could be a loss of $51 billion and 173,000 direct and 343,000 total American jobs.
CLIA also said that the cruise industry "has been proactive in its escalation of health and sanitation protocols and was one of the first industries to announce a voluntary suspension of operations." It also said that in March and April, the industry submitted proposals to the White House Coronavirus Task Force "that are far reaching in prevention, detection and care and, importantly, would be led and funded by the industry."
"We very much value our relationship with the U.S. authorities, and will continue to work with these important agencies in our shared commitment for the health and safety of passengers and crew, which is the industry's No. 1 priority," CLIA said.