While the cruise industry awaited a decision on the No-Sail-Order to be issued, the CDC now recommends that travelers defer all cruise travel worldwide.
The decision from the CDC to issue this advice is surprising, to say the least. It will undoubtedly shock the cruise industry, which has been making positive noises in the last weeks about sailing to take place this year.
Whether the advice is a precursor to extending the No-Sail-Order remains to be seen, but seems much more likely.
What is the CDC saying
The CDC has essentially heightened its travel advice from level two to level three: Avoid Nonessential Travel—Widespread Ongoing Transmission. In its travel advice, the CDC says that cruise passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person infection, and outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on several cruise ships.
It has further stated that the CDC usually doesn’t give travel advice on specific modes of transport but has chosen to single out the cruise industry specifically in this case:
“CDC typically posts travel health notices for countries and other international destinations, not transportation, such as ships. Because of the unprecedented nature of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and the increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 on cruise ships, the U.S. government is advising U.S. travelers to defer all cruise travel.”
The CDC’s advice only covers U.S. travelers going on cruises. The CDC has no say whatsoever on anyone taking or organizing a cruise in other parts of the World.
Is the CDC targetting the Cruise Industry in particular?
The CDC has made it a regular item now that cruise ships are targetted as potential super-spreaders of the disease, while conclusive evidence seems to be lacking entirely:
“Recent reports of COVID-19 on cruises highlight the risk of infections to cruise passengers and crew. Like many other viruses, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships and boats. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there remains a risk of infected passengers and crew on board cruise ships.”
Cruise lines that have been operating in Europe over the last few months have been successful in keeping the virus away. Only two instances have been known onboard ships in Europe, Costa cruises had eight infections, and TUI Cruises had a possible infection which turned out to be negative.
Currently in sailing in Europe are TUI (Mein Schiff), Costa Cruises, MSC Cruises, Hapag-Lloyd, Seadream, and AIDA.
With constant testing being done on all these vessels and sailing proven to be safe, it is unclear why the CDC would say that cruise ships are a source of increased transmission risk.
What about the No-Sail-Order?
The advice issued by the CDC could very well be taken as a sign of worse to come. Director Redfield has been vocal about wanting to extend the No-Sail-Order to February at a minimum.
Only due to the White House reputedly blocking that decision was the order shortened to a one month period.
It seems that the CDC is now setting up a move that would stop cruising all together, and well into the new year. Several financial analysts have already been warning investors that cruises from the U.S. would probably not start until March at the earliest. Not only that, but the CDC has now gotten support from the State Department also to include cruising as a no-go way of traveling.
What this advise will do for the cruise lines remains to be seen, that its big news with significant implications for a struggling industry seems clear.
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