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US cruise industry thrilled over 'game-changing' CDC guidance

From left, Port Canaveral's John Murray, Cruise Planners' Michelle Fee and American Queen Steamboat Co.'s John Waggoner
Leaders across a wide spectrum of the US cruise industry welcomed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's updated guidance with hope for a July restart.

'This is very exciting news. Finally, the CDC has responded to the cruise industry with game-changing guidance to restart cruising in the US,' said Capt. John Murray, CEO Canaveral Port Authority. 'This newly defined approach includes common-sense recommendations, including CDC’s focus on cruise passengers that drive in for cruises, which could expedite the resumption of cruise operations at Port Canaveral.'

American Queen Steamboat Co.

'We applaud the CDC for meeting with industry and listening to our concerns. Rising tides raise all ships, and the CDC’s latest update is a significant step towards the entire industry resuming once again,' said John Waggoner, founder and CEO, American Queen Steamboat Co. He noted AQSC has been operating two paddlewheelers under the company's SafeCruise protocols since March, 'illustrating cruising is, and always has always been, one of the safest forms of travel.'

Waggoner added: 'I look forward to having all cruise options available once again and seeing our industry continue to shape the way we travel.'

Cruise Planners

'We couldn’t be more thrilled,' said Michelle Fee, CEO of Cruise Planners, 'Spirits are very high among our travel advisors, cruise line partners and home office team. We’ve all been optimistic, but the latest news has been a significant move in the right direction to a safe return of cruising and we are highly encouraged for sailings from US ports by mid-July.'

Fee added that 'as more people are vaccinated and more countries are opening to tourists, Cruise Planners travel advisors are becoming increasingly busy with new bookings. Consumers deserve a vacation and want to make up for lost time.'

Cruise Planners reported sales for 2022 departures are up by 60% compared to the same time in 2019, the company's best year ever. 'All good signs that consumer demand is strong,' Fee said.

Bermello Ajamil & Partners

'Overall, this is excellent news for the industry and a long-awaited right step forward by the CDC to assist the only US business that has been shut down by such a mandate,' Bermello Ajamil & Partners said in a bulletin. 'Being able to bypass the simulated voyages is a huge time and money saver for cruise operators. 

'From a market perspective, with the emphasis on vaccinations, it would also appear that the first US sailings will mandate all passengers be vaccinated, which will naturally have some passenger impacts. But there will be reduced capacities to start and then a buildup over the next several months — meaning there will be high demand for cabins. 

'At some point,' BA added, 'the brands will move away from requiring ...  vaccines due to market size.'

For Alaska, this may allow for some large operators to sail in late July/August but, in BA's view, 'these will likely be small impacts to the primary cruise communities, as there would be limited time to prepare and the cost may outweigh the reward for many operators and commercial owners.'

Additionally, the Canada issue still would need to be resolved, as noted by Royal Caribbean Chairman and CEO Richard Fain, in order for foreign-flag ships to sail in Alaska.