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CLIA calls CDC cruise guidance 'unduly burdensome,' says US is pushing business offshore

Cruise Lines International Association reiterated its call for the US conditional sailing order to be lifted, dismissing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's new guidelines as 'unduly burdensome' and 'largely unworkable.'

They also 'seem to reflect a zero-risk objective rather than the mitigation approach to COVID that is the basis for every other US sector of our society,' CLIA said Monday.

While the guidance may be newly published, industry sources said much had already been communicated verbally and implemented, such as agreements with shoreside medical facilities. On Friday, many expressed disappointment that things were not advanced, leaving no clear timeline, while vaccination was only mentioned as recommended rather than being recognized as a fundamental change since the CSO was put in place last October.

American businesses and workers suffering

'The effect of these new mandates is that nearly half a million Americans — from longshoremen and ground transportation operators to hotel, restaurant, and retail workers, travel agents and tens of thousands of businesses that service cruise ships — are continuing to financially suffer with no reasonable timeline provided for the safe return of cruising,' the association said.

'Moreover,' CLIA argued, 'the instructions are at odds with the approach the CDC and governments in other parts of the world apply to all other travel and tourism segments in mitigating the risk of COVID-19.'

The association noted that on the same day CDC issued 'new onerous requirements' for the cruise industry, five months after the original order, the agency relaxed guidance for domestic and international travel due to vaccination progress. 

According to CLIA, nearly 400,000 passengers have already sailed from Europe and parts of Asia since last summer, following stringent, science-based protocols that resulted in a far lower incident rate than on land.

Americans can fly abroad to cruise but not sail from home

'The irony is that today an American can fly to any number of destinations to take a cruise but cannot board a ship in the US. This deprives US workers from participating in the economic recovery and does not recognize the public health advances that have been made over many months, including the ability to effectively mitigate risk on cruise ships.'

The association warned that with no discernable path forward or timeframe for resumption in the US, more sailings originating in the Caribbean and elsewhere are likely to be announced, 'effectively shutting American ports, closing thousands of American small businesses and pushing an entire industry offshore.'

'Consider the ample evidence'

CLIA urged the Biden administration to 'consider the ample evidence that supports lifting the CSO this month to allow for the planning of a controlled return to service this summer. If anything, the announcement last Friday is a clarion call for closer cooperation and coordination among stakeholders to achieve the President’s goal of reaching a "new normal" by the Fourth of July. Working together, we can avoid the negative consequences that come when cruising, and the workers who support it, are not afforded the same opportunities as other workers working in industries with far fewer practices in place to provide for public health and well-being.'