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CDC sets Nov 1 as Target Sail Date for Cruises

Despite calls from travel industry trade groups, the CDC does not plan to lift the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO) ahead of schedule.

In a statement to Travel Market Report, the CDC said the CSO will remain in effect—as planned—until Nov. 1, 2021. “Returning to passenger cruising is a phased approach to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19. Details for the next phase of the CSO are currently under interagency review

Both Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) and the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) put out statements calling for the agency to lift restrictions and allow for cruising to resume from U.S. ports by July 1, 2021.

Zane Kerby, president & CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), said that while the CDC continues to suspend all cruise ship operations in U.S. waters, “nearly every other form of human activity has been cleared for resumption, including dining in restaurants, attending movies and sporting events, overnight hotel stays and traveling by air” thanks to the observance of proper masking and social distancing protocols.

“The ongoing restrictions are particularly unwarranted given that COVID-19 vaccinations are on the rise,” Kerby continued. “These facts, coupled with early indications that vaccinated individuals are not likely to spread the virus, is a compelling reason to permit the resumption of cruises, especially considering the comprehensive hygiene and safety standards already put in place by the cruise lines.”

Kerby also pointed to the fact that to cruise lines, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity Cruises, announced that they would resume cruise operations in the Caribbean by bypassing U.S. ports altogether. Both lines announced they would begin sailing by homeporting in the Bahamas and St. Maarten, respectively. Crystal also opened Bahamas sailings to “record bookings” for its first sailings in the Americas since last March.

“In recognition of the fact that vaccination rates are rising while both infection and mortality rates are declining, these forward-thinking Caribbean islands are now homeport for some of the world’s largest cruise ships,” Kerby said. “In contrast, the CDC’s continued inaction in removing cruise restrictions imperil livelihoods and communities in South Florida, up to now the de facto cruise capital of the world, and far beyond. It is a shame that the CDC’s inflexibility has brought us to this point.”

CLIA called the CSO “outdated,” as it was issued almost five months ago on Oct. 30, 2020, and “does not reflect the industry’s proven advancements and success operating in other parts of the world, nor the advent of vaccines, and unfairly treats cruises differently,” said Kelly Craighead, CLIA’s CEO.  “Cruise lines should be treated the same as other travel, tourism, hospitality, and entertainment sectors.”

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