After the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced on July 18, 2022, that its COVID-19 Program for Cruise Ships was to end immediately, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) which represents most cruise lines, reacted to the good news.
An Important Step Forward for Cruises
The ending of the CDC program and oversight is an important step forward for cruises departing the U.S. This now means the agency’s sometimes overreaching grip on the cruise industry has come to an end and cruise lines can move ahead safely with their own requirements, tailored for each cruise line’s individual needs and in cooperation with the destinations each line visits.
Following the announcement, CLIA welcomed the news, stating, “The sunsetting of the CDC Program effective 18 July 2022 is a testament to the effectiveness of the industry’s comprehensive and robust protocols.”
All major cruise lines have implemented strict health and safety protocols ever since the operational restart began with Celebrity Edge setting sail from Fort Lauderdale on June 26, 2021.
These protocols have included rigorous pre-cruise testing, vaccination requirements for guests as well as crew members, enhanced cleaning and sanitation, improved air filtration, capacity limitations to permit social distancing, and more.
“Cruising has become one of the safest forms of travel and among the most successful industries in mitigating the spread and severity of COVID-19, resulting in few passengers or crew becoming seriously ill or requiring hospitalization compared to hospital statistics for landside patients,” CLIA said.
What has been hard for the industry to bear, however, has been the obvious disparities in how different parts of the travel industry have been treated with regards to guest operations.
For example, at no time have hotels, resorts, amusement parks, or sporting events been subject to the same standards of testing, vaccination, or cleaning that cruise lines have been scrutinized with.
The most blatant example has been the CDC’s international flight COVID-19 test requirement for flights entering the U.S., which was ended in mid-June, yet pre-cruise testing continued to be required for cruise ships. At that time, CLIA urged the CDC to reevaluate testing for cruise travelers, but no changes were made.
Now, the ending of the CDC program will permit better comparison between different sectors of the travel industry.
“This is an important step forward in the CDC aligning the guidelines for cruise with those it has established for other travel, hospitality, and entertainment sectors,” CLIA said.
Guidance, Not Requirements, Will Continue
This does not mean that cruise lines will be left entirely to their own devices for developing updated protocols, however. The CDC will continue to offer recommendations and guidelines, which CLIA and member cruise lines will carefully review as they update their own policies.
“We look forward to reviewing the details, which we understand will be posted on the CDC website in the coming days,” CLIA said.
CLIA member cruise lines include all major cruise lines worldwide, such as Carnival Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, P&O Cruises, Virgin Voyages, and many more global and regional cruise operators.
Not only will cruise lines need to review their policies internally, but they will need to continue to cooperate and collaborate with port destinations. While many destinations have begun to relax COVID-19 travel restrictions, some regions still have very strict protocols and ongoing requirements.
Cruise lines will need to fully comply with a variety of regulations when planning itineraries, bearing in mind that those regulations and protocols will likely continue to evolve in the weeks and months to come.