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Cruise industry salty over CDC plan to keep travelers safe from COVID at sea

A person wearing a face make walks along a port on a sunny day with the Princess Diamond cruise ship docked in the background.
Enlarge / YOKOHAMA, JAPAN – FEBRUARY ten: A member of the media wears a face mask when walking previous the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

The cruise industry is rather salty about the latest federal guidance for safe pandemic sailing, calling it “burdensome” and “unworkable. “

The new guidance is an updated phase of the Framework for Conditional Sailing Order (CSO), released April 2 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While it does not mandate vaccinations for all employees and cruisegoers, it does propose the shots and calls for added layers of overall health measures to attempt providing any onboard COVID-19 outbreaks the heave-ho—which is exceedingly hard to do on the tightly packed, very social vessels.

Among a number of alterations, the guidance calls for cruise operators to boost how often they report the quantity of COVID-19 situations onboard, upping reporting from weekly to every day. It also calls for cruise lines to implement new routine testing for crew members. Additionally, the guidance calls for that cruise lines have agreements set up with port authorities and nearby overall health authorities to assure that, in the occasion of an outbreak, there will be coordination and infrastructure important to safely quarantine, isolate, and treat passengers and crew on land.

Once these specifications are met, cruise operators can run mock cruises with volunteer passengers and, if all goes properly, apply for a “Conditional Sailing Certificate.”

In a statement released Monday, the prominent industry trade group Cruise Lines International Association released a statement calling the new guidance “unduly burdensome, largely unworkable.”

Disappointing

The CLIA claims the overall health guidance “deprives US workers from participating in the financial recovery” and offers “no discernable path forward or timeframe for resumption” of cruises originating in the nation. The group ended its statement by urging the Biden administration to “consider the ample proof that supports lifting the CSO this month to permit for the organizing of a controlled return to service this summer time.”

Likewise, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Frank Del Rio told The Washington Post in an interview Monday that the organization was “disappointed,” by the CDC’s most recent guidance. “We believed it was a step backward, rather frankly,” Del Rio stated.

The cruise executive sent a letter to CDC director Rochelle Walensky on Monday, touting the cruise company’s personal plan to safely resume cruising, which incorporates mandatory vaccination for all passengers and staff. Del Rio balked at the agency’s more specifications, regardless of vaccination status.

The CDC is unlikely to be moved on the topic. In its announcement of the guidance, the agency noted that “Cruising safely and responsibly throughout a worldwide pandemic is hard. While cruising will usually pose some threat of COVID-19 transmission, following the phases of the CSO will assure cruise ship passenger operations are carried out in a way that protects crew members, passengers, and port personnel, specifically with emerging COVID-19 variants of concern.”

In the early days of the pandemic, cruise ships have been amongst the initially higher-profile victims of COVID-19 and seasoned devastating outbreaks that gained international consideration. Among the most memorable was the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined for weeks at a Japanese port in February 2020 amid a blazing outbreak. At a single point, the luxury liner had the largest cluster of COVID-19 outside of China, exactly where the pandemic started. In all, 712 of the ship’s 3,711 passengers and crew were infected, 37 expected intensive care, and nine died.

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