The CDC removed the last remaining vestiges of its COIVD guidance for cruise lines departing and arriving at American ports, providing the cruise news the lines needed as the industry continues to struggle.
CDC No Longer Requires COVID Case Reporting
The latest cruise news has been good, for a change, with regard to COVID-19. Cruise ships were required to report cases contracted on-board:
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week that it would be ending its monitoring program for COVID-19 cases on cruise ships.
More than other aspects of the travel business, the cruise industry was hit hard as one of the first known locations of a COVID-19 outbreak aboard the Diamond Princess in Japan. It highlighted the transmissibility of the virus in confined areas with a large number of people.
A no-sail order was issued in March of 2020 for all cruise ships that served the United States. When cruising was reintroduced, several Caribbean and US-based cruise lines began testing new protocols that included testing prior to the voyage, as well as enhancing cleaning methods, quarantine options, and medical services at sea.
Some Cruise Lines Ease Own Restrictions
Many cruise lines have relaxed masking policies on-board but nearly all cruise lines still require vaccination of passengers. Children under the age of 12 may also be required to vaccinate though this varies. Royal Caribbean, and Disney Cruise lines require vaccination of all passengers older than 5 while others including Carnival cruise lines do not require vaccination until a child reaches age 12.
Virgin Voyages, an adults-only cruise line serving ports and destinations in the Caribbean and Europe has stated it will allow up to 10% of passengers to travel unvaccinated. Virgin was also the first to end pre-departure COVID testing as well.
Norwegian Cruise Line allows unvaccinated passengers without negative COVID tests to embark from ports other than the US, Canada, and Piraeus, Greece.
Industry Still In Need of Repair
This week’s announcement came as a shock to me – I had forgotten that the industry still faced oversight at all from the CDC regarding its ability to transport passengers and crew.
Cruises have been struggling to fill seats and offering great deals. Unlike the air and hotel segments of the travel business which have been slammed with customers and scaling problems, cruise lines at first were not able to ramp up the same way. Since capacity restrictions have been lifted, the cruise industry seems to have been left behind despite record airfare and fuel costs that have crushed American families excitedly awaiting their return to the travel world.
Cruise lines, through CLIA, could unite around some rules standardization, especially when staring down a possible recession, a new virus that has the WHO worried, and a lagging industry recovery. Each line has its own policies and procedures which can make it difficult for consumers to compare during the shopping stage and might lead to mismanaged expectations.
Cruise lines have had a far more difficult road back from COVID than other travel industry segments. The reporting element the CDC required has ceased as of this week. While it’s unclear whether COVID concerns continue to keep passengers away, mixed requirements by cruise lines could be standardized to make the experience easier for travelers.
What do you think? Is the cruise industry ready now to grow again? What do you feel has caused the industry to lag peer groups?