Cruise industry poised for decision on lifting US ban

Kaye Holland
·2 min read
It's been over seven months since passengers were allowed to board cruise ships in the US - JEFF GREENBERG
It's been over seven months since passengers were allowed to board cruise ships in the US - JEFF GREENBERG

The US cruise industry is on tenterhooks as it waits to find out whether the ‘no-sail’ order for cruise ships will be extended.

The ban from public health agency Centers for Disease Control (CDC) was initially issued in March before being extended in July and then again in September.

It is set to expire this tomorrow (October 31), which would give cruise ships the green light to set sail once more.

Yet while a resumption of sailing is certainly possible in November, it is far from guaranteed. In its latest travel advice, which was updated on October 21, the CDC continues to advise passengers against taking a holiday at sea, warning of the "high risk" of travelling on cruise ships.

The CDC said in a statement: “Because of the unprecedented nature of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the increased risk of transmission of Covid-19 on cruise ships, the US government is advising US travellers to defer all cruise travel.

“Recent reports of Covid-19 on cruises highlight the risk of infections to cruise passengers and crew. Like many other viruses, Covid-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships and boats. As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, there remains a risk of infected passengers and crew on board cruise ships.”

In Europe, several cruise lines, including Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises and AIDA Cruises, have successfully returned to sailing – and thrown the book at passengers who break rules designed to combat the threat of Covid-19.

Sources report that America’s upcoming presidential election may have helped turn the tide in favour of the cruise industry.

The travel sector is a crucial part of the economy in Florida, one of the eight key swing states that President Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, are competing to win.

Even if the CDC’s ‘no-sail’ order – which applies to cruise ships that can carry more than 250 passengers and crew – is lifted this weekend, the US cruise industry’s recovery from the pandemic could still be months away.

Major cruise lines have said it would take them up to 60 days to prepare a ship for a restart in operations and to this end, cruise lines including Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Seabourn and Carnival have already cancelled cruises well into December.

Christine Duffy, the president of Carnival Cruise Line, said: “The patience and support of our guests and travel agent partners have been a huge motivation to our team as we have worked through this unprecedented situation and we are dedicated to getting back to operations when the time is right.”