Legislation introduced Tuesday in the U.S. Senate would revoke the CDC's current Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) and require the CDC to provide Covid-19 mitigation guidance for cruise lines in order to resume domestic operations.
The Careful Resumption Under Improved Safety Enhancements (Cruise) Act was introduced by Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida and Dan Sullivan of Alaska.
The legislation demands that the CDC revoke the CSO by July 4 and "any other order or regulation that prohibits the operation of all cruise ships in United States waters." By June 1, it says the CDC must issue recommendations for "how to mitigate the risks of Covid-19 introduction, transmission and spread among passengers and crew onboard cruise ships and ashore to communities."
During the first hearing Tuesday of the newly formed Senate Subcommittee on Tourism, Trade and Export Promotion, travel industry executives called for passage of the bill along with a roadmap for reopening all travel.
"We really believe no sector of the travel industry should be unable to reopen," said Tori Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy for the U.S. Travel Association. She said cruise ships in a normal year bring 13 million travelers to U.S. ports, and that one job is created by every 30 cruise ship passengers. "That's a significant contribution to the U.S. economy. We need there to be clear guidelines so we can reopen [cruising] again this summer."
In Florida alone, Carol Dover, CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, said 115,000 jobs that rely on the cruise industry have been lost, and those losses have trickled down to hotels, restaurants and retail.
"Everything is suffering in those areas of Florida that rely so heavily on cruise," she said.
The bill states that the cruise industry is the only segment of the U.S. economy that is "completely prohibited from operations by the CDC due to Covid-19. For every other sector of the economy, CDC provides recommendations for how to mitigate the spread of Covid-19 without issuing orders to prohibit operations."
"The CDC's refusal to properly address this shutdown is wrong, and it's time to get the cruise lines open safely," said senator Rick Scott in a statement. "Our bill, the Cruise Act, says we're not waiting on the CDC any longer. Cruises can and should resume, and we're going to do everything we can to bring back our cruise industry safely."
Sullivan noted that "unlike the airlines, rail and other modes of transportation -- and all other sectors of the hospitality industry, for that matter -- the cruise lines have been denied clear direction from the CDC on how to resume operations. The foot-dragging, mixed messages and unresponsiveness of CDC leaders is totally unacceptable and ultimately endangering the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of Americans and the hundreds of small businesses across Alaska that rely on the tourism sector."
It is the second time that Rubio and Scott have teamed up on legislation to try to jump-start the cruise industry. Last September, they introduced the Set Sail Safely Act that would have established a Maritime Task Force to address what was needed to allow cruise lines and ports to resume operations.