A crucial part of the cruise restart: Lines and ports must agree on health protocols

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Carnival Cruise Line ships in Cozumel, Mexico. As it works towards a restart, the cruise industry must work with port authorities and governments to agree on health protocols.
Carnival Cruise Line ships in Cozumel, Mexico. As it works towards a restart, the cruise industry must work with port authorities and governments to agree on health protocols.

As cruising looks to resume operations after the coronavirus-induced industry halt, it faces challenges unique to an industry in which the majority of its ships touch multiple nations on each itinerary. 

CLIA global chair Adam Goldstein said in a conversation with Travel Weekly editors that the association is aware that it will be paramount for travel advisors to have clarity about when cruising can resume and what protocols will accompany that resumption.

Among the challenges the cruise industry faces is that each country will have its own set of rules and regulations to comply with. But Goldstein said this is not new for cruising, and he said CLIA is supporting its member cruise lines to put together protocols that should "meet the test of any international national health authority."

"There's never been a perfect harmony across the 1,000 destinations that cruise ships visit, and somehow we managed to work out a fairly seamless vacation environment," Goldstein said. "This presents new challenges across every dimension. And while our aspiration is for the most harmonized global approach possible, it's a complex world. Regions are quite different from one another. It's possible we won't end up with a perfectly harmonized Covid-19 world to deal with. But I don't think there's anybody more experienced, clever or determined to succeed in a global environment than the cruise industry, and that's been well demonstrated over a half century."

CLIA CEO Kelly Craighead said that regulatory agencies worldwide have approached the cruise industry in different ways.

Photo Credit: Shorex.koss/Shutterstock

CLIA execs speak on two other tasks: getting crews back together and ensuring that ships won't be turned away at cruise ports.

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"Some of the challenges in the U.S. are different from the challenges we're having [elsewhere]," she said. "In Europe in particular, the industry is welcome to participate in dialogue about thoughtful resumption protocols. In the U.S., with the CDC, we're having some challenges with having that kind of engagement and dialogue with them."

Craighead added that in Europe, "there is an interest from governments to reopen tourism, and cruising is considered an important part of that."

Given those complexities, Goldstein said it is premature to say where CLIA members might first relaunch.

"We can't comment for the authorities," he said. "They're dealing with a billion different things. Travel and tourism is one piece, and cruise is a very small piece of that piece."

He also said that it is likely there will be a sequencing of cruise resumption in different regions.

"I just can't say which will go first, second, third," he said. "We also expect [cruises may be shorter] toward the beginning, they could go to fewer ports at the beginning. It will take time, and there will be an evolution back towards what we were doing pre-pause."  

Above all, right now, Goldstein said it is important for the industry to be ready to engage with governments around the world at any time.

"What concerns us is: would we miss opportunities to engage at the time when governments are prepared to engage with us?" he said. "So the message to the member lines is, 'let's be as ready as we can be as an association.' It's an everyday challenge we work through." 

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