Cruise association Clia has branded new guidance issued around the restart of cruising from the US “unduly burdensome” and “largely unworkable”.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released long-awaited new instructions on Friday (2 April) as part of the latest phase of its Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO).
New guidance includes lines increasing from weekly to daily the reporting of Covid cases, implementing routine testing of all crew based on a ship’s Covid-19 status and making contractual arrangements with medical facilities on shore for passengers who may fall ill during a voyage.
Covid vaccination will be critical in the safe resumption of cruising, the CDC said, recommending that all eligible port staff, crew and passengers get vaccinated as soon as they are able.
The CDC added it would issue further guidance/orders for the next stage of its restart process – including trial voyages – however no timeframe was given.
The next phase would seen lines apply for a conditional sailing certificate, and once achieved, in the following phases they may resume passenger voyages with restrictions such as voyage length and testing requirements.
Cruise guidance was issued as the CDC relaxed travel restrictions for fully vaccinated US citizens – allowing them to travel without quarantine once arriving back in the US.
In a fresh statement, Clia said it understood the need for the CDC to implement public health measures and shared the Biden Administration’s priority to limit the spread of Covid.
However, the association called the CDC’s latest update “disappointing” and urged for the CSO to be lifted.
“The new requirements are unduly burdensome, largely unworkable, and seem to reflect a zero-risk objective rather than the mitigation approach to Covid that is the basis for every other US sector of our society,” Clia said.
“The effect of these new mandates is that nearly half a million Americans – from longshoremen and ground transportation operators to hotel, restaurant, and retail workers, travel agents, and tens of thousands of businesses that service cruise ships - are continuing to financially suffer with no reasonable timeline provided for the safe return of cruising.”
Clia said the CDC’s instructions “are at odds” with the approach it and governments were applying to other travel and tourism sectors.
“On the same day the CDC issued new onerous requirements for the cruise industry, five months after the original order, the CDC issued relaxed guidance for domestic and international travel due to vaccination progress and recognition of the improved public health environment,” the trade body argued.
“Nearly 400,000 passengers have already sailed from Europe and parts of Asia since last summer, following stringent, science-based protocols that resulted in a far lower incident rate than on land. The irony is that today an American can fly to any number of destinations to take a cruise, but cannot board a ship in the US.
“This deprives US workers from participating in the economic recovery and does not recognise the public health advances that have been made over many months, including the ability to effectively mitigate risk on cruise ships.
“With no discernible path forward or timeframe for resumption in the US, more sailings originating in the Caribbean and elsewhere are likely to be announced, effectively shutting American ports, closing thousands of American small businesses, and pushing an entire industry off-shore.”
Clia urged the US government to “consider the ample evidence” behind lifting the CSO this month to allow for a controlled return to service this summer.
“If anything, the announcement last Friday is a clarion call for closer cooperation and coordination among stakeholders to achieve the president’s goal of reaching a ‘new normal’ by 4 July,” the association added.
“Working together, we can avoid the negative consequences that come when cruising, and the workers who support it, are not afforded the same opportunities as other workers in industries with far fewer practices in place to provide for public health and wellbeing.”