The multilayered approach from cruise line executives, trade unions, and elected officials seems to be paying off. Although the Conditional Sail Order remains firmly in place, it seems the CDC is now willing to listen to those calling for a resumption of cruising and looking at making amendments to features of the CSO.
The first of those amendments have already been made by the CDC just a little more than a week after it first released stage 2A of the conditional sail order.
CDC Drops 12 Hour Terminal Separation
The measure the CDC has now changed involves the section in the CSO where the CDC calls for procedures implemented by the cruise lines where they must avoid congregating embarking and disembarking travelers.
Ships and ports were called upon to ensure they don’t occupy the same enclosed or semi-enclosed areas, such as gangways, terminal waiting spaces, and check-in areas, within the same 12-hour period. The ports also had to ensure passengers from different ships don’t occupy those areas in the same 12-hour period.
There was widespread criticism from cruise lines and ports on this call from the CDC, causing the agency to change the CSO wording from 12 hours to ‘to the extent practicable.’
The actual wording on the CDC website now reads:
- to avoid congregating of embarking and disembarking travelers,
- to ensure disembarking and embarking passengers do not occupy the same enclosed or semi-enclosed areas (e.g., gangways, terminal waiting spaces, check-in areas), to the extent practicable, and
- to ensure disembarking and embarking travelers from different ships do not occupy the same enclosed or semi-enclosed areas (e.g., gangways, terminal waiting spaces, check-in areas), to the extent practicable.
The measure would have forced the cruise lines and ports to rethink their cruise schedules and itineraries radically. A typical embarkation day sees guests disembarking the vessel between 8-10 AM.
Therefore guests would have been able to embark on their vessel at night or in a different terminal—something entirely unlikely in major ports like Port Canaveral or PortMiami with dozens of vessels calling daily.
It is a small victory for the cruise lines which have been piling on the pressure on the CDC recently— after the first anniversary of no cruises from the US and the disappointing and underwhelming phase two of the Conditional Sail Order.
However, although it is a step in the right direction, many steps have to be taken before we will see ships sailing from the US. With cruise lines currently aiming for a July restart, the pressure is on to meet the many measures and procedures the CDC is demanding from the cruise lines.
CDC Will Need To Make Haste
The measure was another example of the CDC’s current course where very little is communicated with the cruise lines.
In an interview with local news station 10 Local, Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy made clear once again that the engagement between the CDC and the Cruise Lines is minimal, or at least far below what the cruise lines would ordinarily expect from the CDC:
“We really just don’t have the details or transparency or engagement with the CDC that we need to begin sailing by this summer, which is such an important season for the cruise industry and for vacationers. We respect the CDC and the work that they are doing at a much broader scale, but at the same time, the cruise industry, as far as we know, is the only industry that has not been able to operate for more than a year.“
The current goal of ships sailing in July from American ports seems to be a longshot at best at the moment. Cruise line executives have made clear they will need 90 days to comply with the CDC’s regulations, while the ships will also need to be manned, the crew will need to be quarantined, tested, and trained in the new procedures.
So although the amendment the agency made does have a significant impact the moment the ships are sailing, it has no impact on when ships will sail from US ports.
For that to happen any time soon, we need a radical rethink within the CDC and how it plans to operate the CSO. Something that seems unlikely right now.