MIAMI (CBSMiami/CNN) — Numerous cruise ships are ready to return to the water even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to announce a date for when U.S. sailings can resume.
The industry is ready for a rebound as it appears travelers are eager, once again, to take a luxury cruise.READ MORE: https://miami.cbslocal.com/2021/04/11/ron-desantis-lawsuit-feds-cdc-reopen-cruise-industry/
Miami-based Carnival Corp. says passenger reservations have nearly doubled in the three-month period ending in February, compared to the prior three-month period.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, also based in Miami, says it is set to continue domestic trips for passengers and crew who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 on July 4, however, the company is still awaiting the CDC’s approval of those plans.’
The deadly virus severely damaged the cruise industry, but some companies are now seeing share prices rise, although they are still below the peaks seen before the pandemic.
Some market analysts say the outlook for the battered industry is fairly strong, despite the continued reluctance by the CDC to greenlight US cruises.
Ten other countries around the globe are already allowing cruises, and some 400,000 passengers have taken trips in the past eight months. Other countries are set to open their ports as well. But the United States is by far the largest market, with about half of the global cruises based here, according to Jaime Katz, who follows the industry for Morningstar.
Katz believes that the CDC will allow ships to start calling on US ports later this summer and no later than the fall.
“Our thinking is this isn’t something on the top of the CDC to do list,” she said. “Its priority has been getting case counts down, which it should be.”
But there is a risk that if the CDC doesn’t act, cruise lines could simply have the ships sail from ports in the Caribbean.
That puts pressure on the CDC to allow US cruises. Having passengers fly to and from the Caribbean rather than leave and return to US ports eliminates any health benefits that might come from not allowing US-based sailings, Katz said.READ MORE: South Florida Officials Urge CDC To Lift Restrictions On Cruising Industry
The ship lines won’t speak directly about their plans, but Carnival CEO Arnold Donald told investors last week that although the company would prefer to depart from its 14 US ports, “if we’re unable to sail, then obviously we will consider home porting elsewhere.”
The state of Florida filed a federal lawsuit against the CDC and the federal government to get permission for US cruises.
“Cruises are a vital part of Florida’s tourism industry—employing thousands and boosting our state’s economy. Every day the federal government unfairly keeps this economic giant docked, our economy suffers,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, adding that the industry is being singled out on the basis of outdated data. “Our litigation seeks to end this federal overreach and allow Floridians to safely get back to work and travel.”
Florida is at the heart of the U.S. cruise industry, with PortMiami, Port Everglades and Port Canaveral among the busiest ports in the world. Millions of passengers pass through in a typical year. It’s worth billions of dollars for the state’s economy.
White House Press Jen Psaki said she couldn’t comment on the suit itself but said “the CDC guidance is based on data and health and medical guidelines, hence that’s why they put it out and why they regularly update it.”
The CDC issued guidance on April 2 that it expects to allow a resumption of sailings and that it “recommends” rather than requires vaccinations for all aboard a ship. The agency also said it wanted to see “simulated (trial) voyages that will allow crew and port personnel to practice new Covid-19 operational procedures with volunteers before sailing with passengers.”
But the CDC did not give a date by which it plans to allow US sailings for the first time since March of 2020 and the industry has stepped up its criticism of the restrictions recently.
The Cruise Line International Association, the industry trade group, says the CDC wants a zero-risk approach for cruise ships as opposed to calling for mitigated efforts against the virus.
Whenever the cruise lines do set sail from U.S. ports, many companies are facing serious debt for money borrowed to stay afloat during the shutdown.MORE NEWS: Cruise Ship Companies Operating Out Of American Ports Frustrated With Glacial Reopening Of Industry
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