Why U.S. Cruises Are Still Stuck in Port

In October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began ordering “sailless” American cruise ships and set a framework that would allow them to travel again, bringing relief and hope to a decimated industry – and many Cruise fans.

And then, nothing.

Nearly six months later, cruise lines are still awaiting technical guidance from the agency, which will allow them to prepare their ships for simulation voyages designed to test whether they can travel safely.

In other parts of the world, the industry is coming to life. Some cruise lines are planning to resume inland cruises in Europe later this month, and trips around the British Isles are scheduled for June, when lock restrictions are expected to be lifted. Royal Caribbean is cruising Greece from the Israeli port of Haifa this spring, which will require the entire crew and passengers to be fully vaccinated.

The CDC states that its current focus is working with cruise lines to implement the initial requirements of the full crew test phase and the establishment of on-board workshops as part of a step-by-step approach to returning cruise passengers. The framework includes extensive testing, quarantine measures and social distances, but details remain unclear.

“Future orders and technical instructions will address additional activities to help cruise lines prepare for and return to passenger activities in a way that mitigates Covid-19 risk among passengers, crew members, including simulated voyages, sailing certification. and limited travel, “the agency said in a statement.

The sailing shutdown, first issued for US cruises on March 14 last year, has devastated the cruise industry, with companies reporting billions of dollars in losses, causing some to reduce the size of their fleets and sell ships for fragments.

Now, with vaccinations underway around the world and infection rates falling in some areas, cruise companies are trying to prepare their ships for a gradual return starting in Europe and Asia. In the United States, cruise fans will probably have to wait at least until the fall.

“We are optimistic about this year,” said Colleen McDaniel, editor-in-chief of the news site Cruise Critic. “There have already been some successes from Europe, where cruises have shown that they have excellent protocols at their disposal, that they are committed to adhering to them, that they can keep passengers in a bubble and that they can do effective testing. We can expect these courses to help inform cruising in the United States. “

While the schedule remains fluid, here we can expect cruises in the coming months.

Good question. Most cruise ships remain idle in the high seas or in ports around the world as voyages continue to be postponed or canceled.

In Europe, some of the smaller cruise lines plan to restart businesses later this month. AIDA Cruises has been planning a tour of the Canary Islands since March 20, followed by Costa Cruises, which plans to resume Italian flights on March 27. MSC Cruises is also planning a European trip in May that will be open only to passengers living in the Schengen area of ​​the European Union.

Last summer, some cruise companies resumed operations in Europe with strict health and safety protocols, but closed them again in the fall after some ships reported cases of Covid-19 and the area returned to the blockade in response to the re-emergence of the virus.

In Britain, domestic cruises could start on May 17, when locksmithing is expected to be reduced, the transport ministry said earlier this month.

UPDATED

March 19, 2021, 5:48 AM ET

The princesses, P&O, Cunard and Hurtigruten are among the cruises that announced “stay sailing” around the British Isles this summer. Some ships will travel around the country’s coasts without calling in ports, while others will offer land excursions.

“People are very excited to start cruising again and we are seeing tons of demand right now, especially in the area of ​​shipping,” said John Downey, US president for Hurtigruten, a Norwegian line that specializes in shipping cruises.

“We will continue to focus on amazing, remote destinations where our visitors are more often surrounded by wildlife and nature than by human populations,” he added. “With strict health protocols we have set, we feel very comfortable for the safety of our guests and crew.”

The major cruise companies are waiting for the CDC to issue technical requirements to help them prepare their ships for sailing. They must then notify the CDC 30 days before the start of the test cruises with volunteer crew and passengers and must apply for a conditional sailing certificate 60 days before a scheduled scheduled voyage.

“The reality is that there was no way cruise lines could follow the instructions set by the CDC in October and start sailing again because they provided two-thirds of the tracks for the funny Stewart Chiron, cruise industry analyst and CEO. site cruiseguy.com, referring to the missing technical details in the conditional sailing order.

“They are waiting for it now and they are waiting to update their guidance, because it was issued before the vaccines started and a lot has changed since then,” Chiron added.

Cruise executives say they expect the CDC to issue the technical requirements soon.

A few well-known peculiarities of maritime law have led some cruise lines specializing in Alaska missions to cancel all port flights in the Lower 48 states by the end of 2021.

Although they look like American companies, many of the big cruises like Princess and Holland America, in fact, belong abroad. Under U.S. law, foreign-flagged cruise ships are not allowed to travel between U.S. ports without first visiting at least one foreign port. Thus, cruises from western cities, such as Seattle, usually stopped in Vancouver, Canada, on their way to Alaska.

However, in February, the Canadian authorities extended their cruise ban until February 2022, effectively shutting down the Alaska cruise business by then.

Earlier this month, senators introduced a bill that would waive the requirement to stop ships in a foreign port, but the vote could still take months.

While Alaska cruises are on hold, cruise companies are rotating to offer land tours to the state using their accommodation and tour networks.

With Koranic virus measures constantly changing, it is difficult to predict exactly what cruises will look like, especially in the United States.

Last year, the Cruise Lines International Association, the industry group representing most of the largest cruise companies, announced a mandatory set of health protocols to be implemented as part of the phased resumption of operations.

Key elements include:

  • Test: 100 percent of passengers and crew will be tested for Covid-19 before boarding.

    Mask wear: All passengers and crew should wear masks on board and during excursions whenever they cannot be physically removed.

    Distance: Physical distance will be required at terminals, ships, private islands and during land excursions.

    Aeration: Air management and ventilation strategies should be implemented to increase fresh air and, where possible, improved filters and other risk mitigation technologies will be used.

    Medical ability: Each ship must have a plan for managing potential medical needs and must have cabins for isolation in the event of an outbreak. Arrangements must be made in advance with land transport providers and medical facilities.

    Excursion to the coast: Air carriers must establish health and safety protocols and ensure that passengers comply. Those who will not be banned from boarding.

    “Eventually, our decisions will be informed by global medical and science experts and the requirements of the places we operate and visit,” said Roger Frizzell, a spokesman for Carnival Corporation. “Our highest responsibility and top priorities are compliance, environmental protection and health, safety and well-being of our visitors, crew and the communities we visit.”

Some companies are reluctant to rely on tests on their own, after SeaDream 1, a ship aspiring to be a model for a safe return to the cruise, cut short its voyage to the Caribbean last year because many passengers tested positive for the Koran, despite they had a negative test before boarding.

Most major cruises have not decided whether to require vaccinations for future flights and are awaiting further scientific guidance once vaccination becomes more widespread around the world.

In Britain, Saga Cruises and P&O said they would require all visitors to be fully vaccinated before boarding their ships during 2021. The Royal Caribbean announced flights from Israel to Greece in May, where all crew members and passengers over 16 years of age must be vaccinated.

“It’s really exciting to see how fast and dramatically science has advanced, even in just a few weeks,” said Richard D. Fain, president and CEO of the Royal Caribbean Group. “We are gaining more and more experience with cruising abroad from Germany, Singapore, the Canary Islands and Italy and we will continue to learn and adapt as new knowledge and scientific discoveries such as the vaccine come to the fore.”

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