Responding to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) updated guidance on COVID-19 and cruise ship travel that recommends that cruise travel be avoided regardless of vaccination status, the president & CEO of the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA), Zane Kerby commented: “An increase in reported COVID cases on cruise ships should surprise no one given the worldwide spike driven by the highly-transmissible omicron variant. The difference between enjoying a cruise vacation and visiting your local grocery store or restaurant, however, is the extraordinarily stringent anti-COVID measures put in place voluntarily by the cruise lines, in close consultation with the CDC. These measures include testing, vaccination, sanitation, mask-wearing and other science-backed measures, as well as protocols to respond to potential cases of COVID-19.”
Kerby pointed out that: “If the average cruise ship were a U.S. state, it would be the safest in the country – by far. According to Royal Caribbean Group, since cruising restarted in the U.S. in June 2021, its ships have carried 1.1 million guests with 1,745 people testing positive – a positivity rate of 0.02%. Among U.S. states as of Jan. 4, Alaska’s positivity rate is the lowest at 9.4%, with Georgia’s the highest at 38.7%.
ASTA’s boss continued: “Cruising is no more responsible for the spread of the Omicron variant than travellers from southern Africa were at the outset of the current crisis. But we continue to see knee-jerk reactions singling out travel for discriminatory treatment. Because the travel industry is regulated more heavily than other activities, when COVID caseloads rise or new variants emerge, travel takes the hit. It brings to mind the old saying, ‘if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.’ This pattern needs to stop.”
And Kerby concluded: “The Administration has shown flexibility on its anti-COVID measures of late, including the recent decision to lift the November 26 travel ban on eight countries in Southern Africa. We call on it to do the same here. At this stage in the pandemic, the tools exist to allow us to combat this virus without crippling an entire sector of the U.S. economy in the process. Let’s use them.”