Cruise ships, as widely reported, have been extremely busy with making changes and upgrades to the vessels to be able to comply with the new regulations from the CDC. However, the same is true of the cruise ports.
Galveston Wharves is on the home stretch to make sure cruise passengers can embark and debark the cruise ships safely, without having to worry too much about potentially being infected with COVID-19. There are still steps the port will need to take before receiving its first cruise passengers.
As Ready As It’s Going To Be
Port Director Rodger Rees reported the Port of Galveston is as ready as it will be and ready to receive cruise passengers safely. However, there are still points the port will need to address before cruise passengers can board the first cruise ships from Galveston in nearly 15 months.
The CDC’s requirements include procedures that deal with what would happen if an outbreak onboard a ship happens. This includes procedures where guests would be hospitalized and in which hotel guests could potentially be quarantined if necessary and before being cleared to travel onwards.
Other requirements the port will have to comply with are the boarding procedures and testing of crew members. To that end, the port has installed air filters, installed new fixtures in the bathrooms, and installed sanitizing UV lights that kill all the germs on escalator handrails—in total, spending more than $100,000 on safety upgrades.
The Galveston County local health authority, Dr. Philip Keiser, will also need to sign the cruise ship health plan the port has put together, after which the CDC will need to approve the plan:
Dr. Philip Keiser:
“It really depends on what CDC has to say, and nobody knows. We just don’t know whether CDC is going to like it or whether they’re going to trash the whole thing.”
As the port is one of the first ports to attempt a resumption, there are very few points to take any guidance.
Uncertainty Remains On Carnival’s Plans
Although there is still more than enough time to do so, the question is if the port will be able to put everything together before Carnival Vista’s departure on July 3.
Rodger Rees, the port director, is not worried:
“What I’m more confident about than anything is that we’re ready to handle it on our end, I think we’re ready. We’ve been ready.”
According to Galveston County Daily News, uncertainty remains primarily on whether Carnival plans to sail with or without vaccinated guests. Yesterday’s letter to future guests of the cruise line did clear up some of this. Carnival President Christine Duffy said the cruise line would likely require guests to be vaccinated for cruises in July.
For cruises in August, this could potentially change as the line works towards performing simulated cruises that will allow the line to perform cruises with guests that have not been vaccinated.
As it stands, the port has been at the forefront of bringing cruises back to Galveston. As it is for the ships, the ports will have significantly different safety measures for vaccinated or unvaccinated cruises.
Port officials are still hopeful that Galveston will be the first port in the nation that sees the return of cruising. Whether or not that happens depends on all institutions coming together to make it happen.