When will cruises start again in the U.S.?

when will cruises start again coronavirus
Photo via Wessel Blokzijl/Flickr (CC BY SA 2.0)
  • Cruise ships leaving from U.S. ports won’t sail until at least Sept. 15
  • Cruise lines are still working through plans for better sanitation practices 
  • Buffets might become a relic of the past

At least 95% of the world’s cruises—including Royal Caribbean, Europe’s MSC, and Carnival Cruise Line—have voluntarily extended their sailing suspensions for ships that carry 250 or more passengers until at least Sept. 30. But when will cruises start again?

“Although we had hoped that cruise activity could resume as soon as possible after that date, it is increasingly clear that more time will be needed to resolve barriers to resumption in the United States,” Bari Golin-Blaugrund, senior director for strategic communications told USA Today.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “no sail order” was set to expire on July 24, CDC spokesman Scott Pauley told the Washington Post that it supports the CLIAA’s suspension extension. 

“CDC has continued (and continues) to have regular conversations and emails with the cruise line industry and cruise ship operators, often on a daily basis, as we worked to review response plans submitted by the cruise lines to CDC under the No-Sail Order,” Pauley said. “CDC will continue to evaluate and update our recommendations as the situation evolves.”

On July 16, it was reported that the CDC had extended its “no sail order” through the end of September, though the CDC has said it could amend the order if need be. So, there might not be too much confidence at this moment for when cruises can start again. Now, a number of cruises aren’t booking trips until 2021, including the Queen Mary 2 and the Queen Victoria. Carnival Cruise Line also won’t set sail until March 2021 at the earliest.

Not every cruise line will survive, though. That’s true of Blount Small Ship Adventures, the 54-year-old line which served the U.S. and the Caribbean and which put its three ships up for sale in late August and ceased operations.

In the meantime, cruises are using this time to finalize plans for when they can safely resume trips. Golin-Blaugrund told USA Today that the whole cruise industry is taking a “holistic approach.” They don’t seem to be taking on the idea that the industry is doomed because of the pandemic—and in fact, Mediterranean Sea cruises began ramping up again in mid-August, but they’re only open to residents of Europe’s Schengen Area.

That will entail implementing better sanitation practices for ships and terminals, enhancing passenger and crew screening with rapid tests and temperature checks, requiring social distancing, modifying or eliminating buffet dining options, enhancing onboard medical capability, and conducting new training for crew members. 

“Although we are confident that future cruises will be healthy and safe and will fully reflect the latest protective measures, we also feel that it is appropriate to err on the side of caution to help ensure the best interests of our passengers and crew members,” Golin-Blaugrund said. “The additional time will also allow us to consult with the CDC on measures that will be appropriate for the eventual resumption of cruise operations.”

Though cruise line stocks have taken a beating since the pandemic began, at least one expert believes people will flock to cruises once again in the future. Dr. William Lang, a former director of the White House Medical Unit, told MarketWatch, “People will tend to forget about [virus risks on cruises]. It’s a time-limited phenomenon on cruises.”

Sources: USA Today, Washington Post, CDC

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