The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) is calling on the Biden Administration to address the recovery and restart of the cruise industry.
In a statement, Zane Kerby, president and CEO of ASTA, said, “With the observance of proper masking and social distancing protocols, nearly every other form of human activity has been cleared for resumption, including dining in restaurants, attending movies and sporting events, overnight hotel stays and traveling by air. Inexplicably, however, in the current phase of its 'Framework for Conditional Sailing Order,' the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to suspend all cruise ship operations in U.S. waters. This current guidance is not expected to expire until November 1 and comes on the heels of the CDC’s prior ‘No Sail Order,’ which effectively banned cruise travel for most of 2020.”
He added that “the ongoing restrictions are particularly unwarranted.” Kerby noted that COVID-19 vaccinations are on the rise and that roughly 25 percent of all Americans have received at least a partial dosage. In addition, “early indications that vaccinated individuals are not likely to spread the virus, is a compelling reason to permit the resumption of cruises, especially considering the comprehensive hygiene and safety standards already put in place by the cruise lines.”
He also mentioned the economic impact of restarting cruising: “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two busiest cruise ports in the world were both located in the United States, namely, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Massive investments from cruise lines in new features, on-board entertainment and many other services had made cruise ships a destination in and of themselves, resulting in record numbers of passengers in the years leading up to 2020. Already the world’s busiest, these ports have also undergone massive renovations and expansion in recent years, supporting the growth of hundreds of thousands of jobs in South Florida and across the nation. In 2019 travel agencies processed $12.3 billion in cruise sales and directly support 86,360 cruise line jobs in the U.S.
In the statement, Kerby pointed to cruise lines, including Crystal, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity, which are “bypassing” the U.S. altogether by finding new homeports and sailing Caribbean and Mexico-only itineraries. “Clearly, when legislative, regulatory, and diplomatic ‘fixes’ all fail, businesses are forced to make alternative arrangements,” he said.
Cruisers will, instead of flying into Miami, Ft. Lauderdale or other U.S.-based ports, fly directly into the Caribbean, Kerby added, imperiling livelihoods in the U.S. cities, the “de facto cruise capital of the world.”
Kerby concluded: “We therefore call on the CDC to immediately lift its restrictions on cruising and set July 1 as the date that cruising can resume from U.S. ports.”