Cruise Lines Suspend U.S. Cruises Until Mid-September
The cruise industry is still reeling from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Discussion within the industry centers on when it will be safe to resume cruising. Cruises are deemed by many as Petri dishes for viruses, given the close quarters and limited space available. Last month, Carnival announced they’d resume sailing August 1 from some U.S. ports. This is right after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) no-sail order is scheduled to end. However, Cruise Line International Association (CLIA) announced today that cruise lines are voluntarily suspending cruising for U.S. ports until September 15, 2020.
In a statement to USA Today, director of strategic communications for CLIA said “Although we had hoped that cruise activity in the U.S. could resume as soon as possible after that date, it is increasingly clear that more time will be needed to resolve barriers to resumption in the United States.” The group’s members plan to reevaluate as September 15th approaches, and they will consider extending the suspension if conditions warrant. CLIA is composed of cruise companies that carry 95% of ocean cruises, according to USA Today.
The CDC’s current no-sail order is valid through July 24, 2020. The CDC has not said whether it plans to extend that order beyond July. Canada already announced a cruise travel ban until October 31st.
Of course, the move is not entirely surprising, as some cruise lines (including Norwegian) already announced an extension for cruise suspensions. It’s an incredibly difficult situation and decision for cruise lines to make, as they consider when it is safe to start operations again. Carnival announced in May that cruising would resume August 1st, and one report suggested bookings surged 600 percent. Carnival’s CEO later said he regretted the announcement because it gave people the impression cruises were on target to begin. Instead, the significant portion of that announcement was meant to highlight further cancellations.
Earlier this year, Royal Caribbean submitted a trademark request for face masks, calling them “Seaface” in the application. It’s unclear whether face masks will be required once cruising begins again, but I think it’s highly likely given comments by industry leaders.
One challenge itself is how to handle infected persons entering the ship. One study found that 81 percent of people on a cruise were asymptomatic. That essentially makes questionnaires and temperature screenings useless, as those people wouldn’t exhibit symptoms. However, they could still spread the virus, which further makes the case that face masks will likely be required on cruises.
For those cruisers out there, bad news. Cruising is voluntarily suspended in the U.S. until September 15. It’s hard to say whether that will be extended beyond that date as we get closer. In addition, it’s still unknown if and when the CDC will extend their no-sail order.