ASTA Calls CDC Guidance to Avoid Cruising “Knee-Jerk Reaction”

Following the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recently announced guidance recommending that consumers avoid cruise travel—even if they’re vaccinated—American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) president and CEO Zane Kerby called the decision a “knee-jerk reaction.” He also said that “An increase in reported COVID cases on cruise ships should surprise no one given the worldwide spike driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant.”

The CDC last week said that between November 30 and December 14, cruise ships operating in U.S. waters reported 162 cases of COVID-19 but between December 15 and 29, cruise ships sailing in U.S. waters reported 5,013 COVID-19 cases. Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) has noted that the CDC’s decision is “particularly perplexing considering that cases identified on cruise ships consistently make up a very slim minority of the total population onboard—far fewer than on land.”

Kerby repeated this in his statement on Wednesday, adding, “If the average cruise ship were a U.S. state, it would be the safest in the country – by far. According to Royal Caribbean Group, since cruising restarted in the U.S. in June 2021, its ships have carried 1.1 million guests with 1,745 people testing positive—a positivity rate of 0.02 percent. Among U.S. states as of January 4, Alaska’s positivity rate is the lowest at 9.4 percent, with Georgia’s the highest at 38.7 percent.”

He additionally noted that cruising is essentially safer than “visiting your local grocery store or restaurant [due to] the extraordinarily stringent anti-COVID measures put in place voluntarily by the cruise lines, in close consultation with the CDC.” Such measures include testing, vaccination, sanitation and mask-wearing, as well as protocols to respond to potential cases of COVID-19.  

“The [Biden] Administration has shown flexibility on its anti-COVID measures of late, including the recent decision to lift the November 26 travel ban on eight countries in Southern Africa,” Kerby continued. “We call on it to do the same here. At this stage in the pandemic, the tools exist to allow us to combat this virus without crippling an entire sector of the U.S. economy in the process. Let’s use them.”

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