In an order filed to the Federal Registry yesterday, the CDC shut down any hope that the cruise industry would return soon, extending the no-sail order for another 100 days. The order also outlines other measures cruise lines must comply with regarding anyone currently on board their ships to keep them free from COVID 19 moving forward.
The order was signed by Robert R. Redfield, MD, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the order is not entirely set in stone. The CDC does have the ability to reduce the no-sail time frame should conditions improve around the world in the coming weeks, however unlikely that may be.
CDC’s No-Sail Order
Not only does the order place a restriction on new passengers, crew need permission from the “US Coast Guard, in consultation with HHS/CDC personnel and, as appropriate, as coordinated with Federal, State, and local authorities” before boarding or disembarking a ship. For the thousands of crew still working on board ships all around the world, that could make getting home more difficult.
An appropriate plan is one that adequately prevents, mitigates, and responds to the spread of COVID-19 on board cruise ships.
From CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD:
This Order shall continue in operation until the earliest of three situations. First, the expiration of the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ declaration that COVID-19 constitutes a public health emergency. Second, the CDC Director rescinds or modifies the order based on specific public health or other considerations. Or third, 100 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register.
Many are holding onto hope that the first two conditions can be met before the 100 day period ends, but it seems like nothing short of a miracle cure would get the Government to change their classification of COVID 19 as a “public heath crisis” anytime soon.
Cruisers Crushed, Again
It was March 12 when the first cruise lines began halting normal operations and the entire industry followed suit soon after. If a return to cruising doesn’t happen until late July, it means ships and crew will spend a full six months dormant. The cruise community has been waiting patiently, but after enduring no-sail orders of 30 days, another 100 days is not what they wanted to hear.
Cruise lines have adapted to the cancelled sailings quickly, with customer service teams working overtime to satisfy the unique situation of every client. Despite the cancelled sailings, reports across the industry are that bookings are up for 2021, signaling that despite COVID 19 worries, cruisers aren’t going to abandon their preferred vacation experience anytime soon.
That also has a ripple effect to the local businesses in ports across the world that won’t see cruise ship revenue for months. Alaska season, for example, will be entirely cancelled should the shutdown really reach August. That means the business owners in Alaska, who last saw passengers in the Fall of 2019, will have to wait until the Spring of 2021 to see that kind of business again.
Six months without revenue is obviously a huge problem for cruise lines who have seen stock prices plummet to a fraction of what they were at the end of 2019. Some, like the government of Saudi Arabia, have seen the low prices as an investment opportunity. Using their Public Investment Fund, the Saudis purchased 43.5 million shares of Carnival Corporation. They now own 8.2% of the company. There could be a significant amount of time until their investment pays off, but many in the industry are confident that a return to normalcy will happen eventually.