CLIA calls on the CDC to lift restrictions on cruising

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Cruise ships docked in Miami last year. CLIA and others are calling for a restart by July, citing inaction by the CDC.
Cruise ships docked in Miami last year. CLIA and others are calling for a restart by July, citing inaction by the CDC. Photo Credit: richard pross/Shutterstock.com

CLIA Wednesday called on the CDC to lift the Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) and allow for cruising to resume from U.S. ports by the beginning of July, saying the "lack of any action by the CDC has effectively banned all sailings in the largest cruise market in the world."

CLIA cited the CDC's lack of progress in releasing any further guidance for cruise lines on how to move the next phases of the CSO, which was implemented on Oct. 31, since December, making cruising is the only sector of the U.S. economy that remains prohibited.

"The outdated CSO, which was issued almost five months ago, does not reflect the industry's proven advancements and success operating in other parts of the world, nor the advent of vaccines, and unfairly treats cruises differently," said Kelly Craighead, CLIA's CEO.  "Cruise lines should be treated the same as other travel, tourism, hospitality, and entertainment sectors."

Confusion and frustration about the CSO has grown within the industry as the CDC has remained publicly silent. Last week, the CDC's director, Rochelle Wallensky, appeared unsure about the order and next steps; under questioning from Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, she said that a "decision" on the CSO "is not totally up to us."

Cruise stocks fall on reports of a change to the order

Meanwhile, cruise line stocks fell in afternoon trading Wednesday after news outlets made somewhat misleading reports about the CDC's position on its Conditional Sailing Order.

CNBC reported that the CDC had issued "new guidance" saying that the order "will remain in effect until Nov. 1." Several consumer news outlets and Wall Street analysts picked up the report.

The CDC statement issued Wednesday was a reiteration of its current position, which is the same as it was when CDC issued the order on Oct. 30. The statement says that the order "remains in effect until Nov. 1, 2021. Returning to passenger cruising is a phased approach to mitigate the risk of spreading Covid-19. Details for the next phase of the CSO are currently under interagency review."

The statement didn't change anything in the order or its position that there are three avenues that could end the Conditional Sailing Order

  • The expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services' declaration that Covid-19 constitutes a public health emergency
  • The CDC director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations
  • Nov. 1, 2021.

Other groups call on CDC to reinstate cruising

CLIA's statement followed a similar call by ASTA on Tuesday, which said it wanted the CDC to remove the order "immediately."

Craighead pointed to the resumption of limited cruising in Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific, "with nearly 400,000 passengers sailing to date in more than 10 major cruise markets." She further stated that those sailings implemented protocols that "effectively mitigated the spread of Covid-19," with fewer than 50 cases reported, which CLIA said is "is dramatically lower than the rate on land or in any other transportation mode."

In the past week, cruise lines have also laid plans to resume cruises for North Americans just outside of U.S. jurisdiction, in Bermuda and the Caribbean.

Craighead also called the accelerated rollout of vaccines "a gamechanger in providing for the health and well-being of the public," especially in the U.S., citing Biden's expectation that all adults will be eligible for vaccinations by May 1.

The association said the July timeframe would coincide with when President Biden forecasts the U.S. to be "closer to normal." CLIA noted that while some of its members have announced vaccine requirements on its cruises, CLIA does not currently have a vaccine policy.

"The organization and its members are exploring a workable approach for how to consider vaccinations, once widely available, as part of robust protocols," the association said.

This report was updated Wednesday afternoon with information about Wall Street's reaction to a report that the CDC had changed its Conditional Sailing Order.

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