CLIA casts doubt on CDC assertion of a 'midsummer' cruise restart

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Cruise deck [Credit: Yevgen Belich/Shutterstock.com]
The CDC said its guidance in the Conditional Sailing Order would enable cruising to restart in some form this summer, but CLIA said it wasn't sure that the timeframe was workable since it was still waiting additional guidance from the CDC. Photo Credit: Yevgen Belich/Shutterstock.com

As frustration continued to mount over the CDC's continued reluctance to modify or lift its Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) and enable the cruise industry to resume sailing in July, the CDC this week said that its phased approach aligns with a potential midsummer restart.

The cruise industry, however, said that assertion does not align with current guidelines contained in the order.

"CDC is committed to working with the cruise industry and seaport partners to resume cruising following the phased approach outlined in the [CSO]," the agency said in a statement. "This goal aligns with the desire to resume passenger operations in the United States expressed by many major cruise ship operators and travelers; hopefully, by mid-summer with restricted revenue sailings."

The CDC did not clarify what it meant by "restricted" sailings; however, the order includes guidelines regarding ship capacity among other requirements and regulations.

The CDC's statement was published after CLIA this week called the CDC's latest guidance, issued April 2, "burdensome [and] largely unworkable;" Arnold Donald, Carnival Corp.'s CEO, said the world's largest cruise company was "very disappointed" in it.

"Some of the information coming out of CDC is a little confusing," CLIA CEO Kelly Craighead told travel advisors Wednesday. "We certainly thought some information that came out yesterday that suggested they thought we were on track for a summer restart, it doesn't track with the information they put out Friday."

Craighead said that it takes about 90 days to get a ship ready for revenue operations, which puts early July cruises already within that timeframe. And under the current CSO guidelines, the CDC requires a minimum of 90 days to get approval for commercial sailings, not including the time to finish the second of the four phases. Given that the industry has not received all of the technical guidance necessary to complete the second phase, a midsummer restart is unlikely unless the CSO is modified.

However, Craighead said that while a July restart right now would be a challenge, it is doable if the CDC acts quickly.

"If we get the word by May 1, we feel we can get the ships ready by July 1," she said.

Craighead, speaking during the weekly travel advisor chat hosted by Royal Caribbean International senior vice president of sales Vicki Freed, urged advisors to use their voice to help get the CSO modified or lifted. CLIA launched a campaign earlier this month, called Ready, Set, Sail, which encourages people to "take a moment to call, email and/or tweet" members of Congress about the CSO.

"Your stories are the very best, most resonant stories to share," Craighead told the advisors. "We are looking to activate all members of the active cruise community to weigh in with Congress and use your voice with the media."

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