Cruise lines have thrown in the towel for 2020.
Member companies of lobbying group Cruise Lines International Association, which includes Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line and most others, have agreed to continue their voluntary suspension of sailing from U.S. ports until 2021.
“As we continue to plan for a gradual and highly-controlled return of cruise operations in the U.S., CLIA members are committed to implementing stringent measures to address COVID-19 safety, including 100% testing of passengers and crew, expanded onboard medical capabilities, and trial sailings, among many others,” reads a statement from CLIA. “We share a common goal with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to protect public health, which has been affirmed and reaffirmed consistently throughout the industry’s response to the global pandemic.”
While the lines are no longer under the no-sail order from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, member lines now fall under a new “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order” issued by the CDC on Oct. 31.
That framework requires lines to go through a series of tasks before they can begin sailing with customers. That includes ramping up testing facilities on and off-ship, ensuring its personnel are free of coronavirus and then performing at least one test sailing to simulate an actual cruise and prove out its ability to sail safely.
The timetable for each line to tackle these requirements meant cruise lines would have to rush if they were to try and keep any sailings still on the books for December. On Monday, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean Group all pulled their remaining December sailings from their websites.
Tuesday’s announcement from CLIA means that other lines like Carnival and MSC Cruises would also be waiting until January.
“This action will provide additional time to align the industry’s extensive preparation of health protocols with the implementation requirements under the CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing and Initial Phase COVID-19 Testing Requirements for Protection of Crew,” according to the CLIA statement. “We recognize the devastating impact that the pandemic continues to have on the 421,000 Americans whose livelihoods are connected directly to cruise operations. We will work with urgency to advance a responsible return to cruising while maintaining a focus on effective, science-based measures to protect public health.”
CLIA’s statement points out the cruise industry is responsible for generating more than $53 billion in the U.S. annually, and supporting 421,000 jobs, and says that for every day cruise lines remain inactive, it costs another 1,000 jobs. To date, CLIA’s statement estimates that since March, the U.S. has lost more than $25 billion in economic activity and more than 164,000 jobs.
Cruise lines were at the epicenter of deadly outbreaks in early 2020 as the coronavirus first began to take hold, including the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined in Japan back in February, and one of the catalysts to the March shutdown of the cruise industry.
©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)