After so many postponements, not many are hopeful that we will see cruising return this June. After another round of cancelations which saw Carnival Corporation, Norwegian Cruise Line, and Royal Caribbean cancel their voyages until the start of June 2021, is it realistic that cruising will return?
If we look at the signs as they stand today, it seems optimistic. Each day we are starting to see more and more positive movements in the industry. Cruises in Israel and opening of cruising in the U.K., signs for the U.S. are looking better and better.
We look at whether we can expect to see a cruise leaving in June or if it turns out to be idle hope once again.
Positive: The Pandemic is Finally on the Retreat!
After more than a year of lockdowns, curfews closed down bars, restaurants, and of course, a shut down of the entire cruise industry, it looks like there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Worldwide infection numbers are going down, and vaccination programs have picked up speed.
As Richard D. Fain, the Royal Caribbean President and CEO, said in a recent video message last week:
“These are the most hopeful days we’ve had in a long time. But as we get closer to our goal, we inevitably also get more impatient to reach it. We need to be careful that we don’t screw it up.”
Positive: CDC Releases Guidelines for Vaccinated People
The CDC is banking on issuing extra freedoms for fully vaccinated people. The agency released a statement on March 8 saying that people who have been fully vaccinated will be able to do many things non-vaccinated people cannot.
CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH said:
“There are some activities that fully vaccinated people can begin to resume now in their own homes.
Everyone – even those who are vaccinated – should continue with all mitigation strategies when in public settings. As the science evolves and more people get vaccinated, we will continue to provide more guidance to help fully vaccinated people safely resume more activities.”
Fully vaccinated people can:
- Visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
- Visit with unvaccinated people from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing
- Refrain from quarantine and testing following a known exposure if asymptomatic
For now, fully vaccinated people should continue to:
- Take precautions in public like wearing a well-fitted mask and physical distancing
- Wear masks, practice physical distancing, and adhere to other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people who are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease or who have an unvaccinated household member who is at increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease
- Wear masks, maintain physical distance, and practice other prevention measures when visiting with unvaccinated people from multiple households
- Avoid medium- and large-sized in-person gatherings
- Get tested if experiencing COVID-19 symptoms
- Follow guidance issued by individual employers
- Follow CDC and health department travel requirements and recommendations
This is a major point for cruise lines. With the US currently being one of the countries where the vaccination program is progressing better than in, for example, Europe, this opens up a path for the cruise lines to start doing cruises with vaccinated guests at least.
People who are not vaccinated could then follow at a later point. This set of guidelines is one of the major points for a resumption of cruising in the U.S., if the CDC applies the same set of rules to the cruise lines.
Positive: Cruise Lines Are Mobilizing Crew
Several cruise lines have started to mobilize their crew members. Now, this in itself doesn’t say much, as we’ve seen with NCL’s mobilization in December. What is telling is that we have a combination of factors that tell us this could be the real thing. Keep in mind that the cruise lines will need a significant amount of time to get the crew ready to sail once again.
Not only does it take time to get a ship out of layup, but the crew will also need to be trained, quarantined, tested, and in some cases, vaccinated before they can sail with guests. Norwegian Cruise Line CEO and President Frank Del Rio said a few weeks ago a cruise line would need about 90 days to go from layup to fully ready.
With crew members being called up now, going through their paperwork, medicals, and possibly training in their home country, June is looking good all of a sudden.
Positive: The CDC’s Guidelines Could Be Just Days Away
In a business update for investors, Royal Caribbean Cruise Line President Michael Bayley said he believes the long-awaited CDC technical guidelines to be just days away.
These guidelines are vital for the cruise lines to set up the exact technical procedures the CDC has in mind. Without them, the cruise lines cannot set sail on any test cruises and cannot qualify for certification to sail.
In the business update, Bayley said: “We’re just literally waiting.” Bayley thinks it could be just days away, as the communication between the cruise lines has been productive and open. Once the technical guidelines have been released and implemented, the cruise lines will start preparing for sailing on test voyages. One of the last steps before cruises resume.
Positive: The Health Measures Have Been Proven To Work
Over the last year, much has been said about how cruise ships would be dangerous during a pandemic. A fact thoroughly debunked by companies like Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises, TUI, Dream Cruises, and Royal Caribbean.
The health measures the cruise lines have been putting into place have not only been successful in preventing COVID-19 from coming on board. German cruise line TUI has proven that positive infections can and will be picked up early with the measures that have been implemented.
Positive: European and Asian Cruises a Complete Success
Costa, MSC, Mein Schiff, Hapag Lloyd, Dream Cruises, and Royal Caribbean. Just a handful of cruise lines have successfully operated during the pandemic.
With 60-70% occupancy, testing before boarding, and onboard measures firmly implemented, the European and Asian cruises these cruise lines have operated are nothing more than a resounding success.
Guests’ feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Positive cases have been minimal and picked up fast, and most importantly, the cruise lines have
Royal Caribbean has already extended its season in Singapore, announced cruises in Israel based on the same principles and with 100% vaccinated guests, and is looking into the possibility of doing the same in the U.K. once cruises start operating here in May.
Why does this matter to the U.S.? It shows the CDC that the cruise lines know very well how to operate safely. If nothing else, it will be an argument for the cruise lines to convince the CDC.
The UK Will Open In May
As briefly mentioned above, the U.K. cruise industry will start sailing from May onwards. The difference with the U.S. is that the U.K. has no issues with allowing domestic cruises. Due to a law in place since 1886 in the U.S., this is impossible in the States.
However, it will show the CDC that sailing can be done safely, while it might give U.S. legislators some ideas on how to deal with the Alaska situation.
Maybe No Cruises in June?
While positivity reigns with most of the above points, there are some pointers for a start which could be many months away.
The CDC’s technical guidelines are not out yet. Michael Bayley believes they may be imminent; however, the CDC has been sailing its course throughout the ban on cruising. In effect, the conditional sailing order was nothing more than an extension of a cruise ban wrapped as a present.
Test sailings can only begin after 30 days’ notice to the CDC. 60 days before a regular voyage, the cruise lines have to apply for a Conditional Sailing Certificate.
Worth Reading: When Will Cruises Resume in 2021?
Added formalities and time frames will only postpone the process. Currently, there are 82 days until June 1, 2021. We need to be hearing something from the CDC real soon if we are to see cruises sail in June.
Several cruise lines have indicated they will require all crew to be vaccinated, welcomed by the many thousands of crew members. The only issue is that many countries are still in the beginning stages of vaccinations.
The Philippines, a country where many crew members come from, has only started this week. Vaccines will have to be brought in by the cruise companies. And that will depend on how many vaccines are available for purchase and when that might be.
Even if the CDC’s situation is sorted out and they understand the cruise lines can sail safely, June is still more than 2.5 months away. In this time, we could see many more surprises. Disney CEO Bob Chapek feels it may be the fall of 2021 before we see even a partial return of Disney cruise ships:
“We anticipated that with some luck and the increase in the number of vaccinations out there and the encouraging trends that we’re seeing that maybe by this fall we might be able to have some limited operations of our cruise ships, but that’s all going to depend on the incidence of the virus and the vaccination of the general public.”
Will We Sail in June?
Although we want to see cruises return as soon as possible, it should happen safely. By now, the cruise lines have shown it is possible. As long as the CDC finally releases technical guidelines it should have released months ago and speeds up the requirements for ships to sail; it could be June.
As it stands, it is looking positive in many ways, and yes, we are at the end of the tunnel. But let’s face it, we are not there yet. Perhaps RCL CEO Richard D. Fain worded it correctly, “As eager as I am to get to dessert, especially if it involves chocolate cake. I know I should eat my entree before I eat the cake.”
Main Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock.com