The cruise industry is pretty salty about the latest federal guidance on safe pandemic sailing, calling it “difficult” and “impossible.” “
The new guidance is an updated phase of the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), published April 2 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although it does not impose vaccinations on all personnel and cruisegoers, it recommends the shots and requires added layers of health measures to try to give any COVID-19 outbreak the outbreak – which is extremely difficult to do on the densely packed, very social vessels.
Among several changes, the guide requires cruise operators to increase the frequency with which they report the number of COVID-19 cases on board, increasing reporting from weekly to daily. It also requires cruise ships to implement new routine testing for crew members. In addition, the guidance requires cruise ships to have agreements with port authorities and local health authorities to ensure that in the event of an outbreak, there will be the coordination and infrastructure needed to ensure quarantine, isolate and treat passengers and crew on land safely.
Once these requirements are met, cruise operators can run mock cruises with volunteer passengers and, if all goes well, apply for a “conditional sailing certificate.”
In a statement released Monday, the prominent industry trade group Cruise Lines International Association issued a statement calling the new guidance “unnecessarily burdensome, largely useless.”
The CLIA claims that the health guide “deprives American workers of participation in the economic recovery” and provides “no visible way forward or time frame for resumption” of cruises originating in the country. The group concluded its statement by urging the Biden administration to “consider the ample evidence supporting the abolition of the CSO this month to allow for the planning of a controlled return to service this summer.”
Likewise, CEO of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Frank Del Rio told The Washington Post in an interview Monday that the company was “disappointed” with CDC’s latest guidance. “We thought it was a step back, honestly,” Del Rio said.
The cruise director sent a letter to CDC director Rochelle Walensky on Monday, announcing the cruise company’s own plan to safely resume the cruise, which includes mandatory vaccination for all passengers and employees. Del Rio donated the agency’s additional claims, regardless of vaccination status.
The CDC is unlikely to be moved on the subject. In its guidance statement, the Agency noted that “It is difficult to cross safely and responsibly during a global pandemic. While cruises will always pose some risk to COVID-19 transmission, the CSO phases will ensure that passenger operations on cruise ships are conducted in a way that protects crew members, passengers and port staff, especially with new COVID-19 variants of concern. ”
In the early days of the pandemic, cruise ships were among the first high-profile victims of COVID-19 and experienced devastating outbreaks that gained international attention. Among the most memorable were Diamond Princess, who was quarantined for several weeks in a Japanese port in February 2020 in the midst of a burning outbreak. At one point, the luxury liner had the largest cluster of COVID-19 outside China, where the pandemic began. In all, 712 of the ship’s 3,711 passengers and crew were infected, 37 required intensive care, and nine died.