Time To Set Sail Again

ASTA president & CEO, Zane Kerby is urging the US government to address the recovery of the cruise industry.

In a statement, Kerby said that: “Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two busiest cruise ports in the world were both located in the United States, namely, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. Massive investments from cruise lines in new features, on-board entertainment and many other services had made cruise ships a destination in and of themselves, resulting in record numbers of passengers in the years leading up to 2020. Already the world’s busiest, these ports have also undergone massive renovations and expansion in recent years, supporting the growth of hundreds of thousands of jobs in South Florida and across the nation. In 2019 travel agencies processed $12.3 billion in cruise sales and directly support 86,360 cruise line jobs in the U.S.”

Kerby pointed out that: “With the observance of proper masking and social distancing protocols, nearly every other form of human activity has been cleared for resumption, including dining in restaurants, attending movies and sporting events, overnight hotel stays and traveling by air. Inexplicably, however, in the current phase of its ‘Framework for Conditional Sailing Order,’ the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to suspend all cruise ship operations in U.S. waters. This current guidance is not expected to expire until November 1st and comes on the heels of the CDC’s prior No Sail Order which effectively banned cruise travel for most of 2020.”

ASTA’s boss continued: “The ongoing restrictions are particularly unwarranted given that COVID-19 vaccinations are on the rise. Approximately 25 percent of all Americans have received at least one dose, with the number of those fully vaccinated increasing daily. These facts, coupled with early indications that vaccinated individuals are not likely to spread the virus, is a compelling reason to permit the resumption of cruises, especially considering the comprehensive hygiene and safety standards already put in place by the cruise lines.

“In response to the ongoing situation, late last week, two of the leading cruise lines announced that they would resume cruise operations in the Caribbean by bypassing U.S. ports altogether. Clearly, when legislative, regulatory, and diplomatic ‘fixes’ all fail, businesses are forced to make alternative arrangements.”

And he noted that: “Our consumer research revealed that 44 percent of Americans are getting vaccinated so that they can travel. An astonishing 87 percent of Americans tell us they are planning a summer trip; with a plurality planning two trips this summer. Americans are also anxious to return to the seas, with over 70 percent indicating a readiness to do so now.”

Kerby also said that: “We fully expect Americans ready to cruise will now begin their journeys by flying to the Caribbean instead of directly to Miami or Ft. Lauderdale. In recognition of the fact that vaccination rates are rising while both infection and mortality rates are declining, these forward-thinking Caribbean islands are now home port for some of the world’s largest cruise ships.  In contrast, the CDC’s continued inaction in removing cruise restrictions imperil livelihoods and communities in South Florida, up to now the de facto cruise capital of the world, and far beyond. It is a shame that the CDC’s inflexibility has brought us to this point.”

And he concluded: “We therefore call on the CDC to immediately lift its restrictions on cruising and set July 1st as the date that cruising can resume from U.S. ports.”

Go to www.ASTA.org for more.