Cruise Ships Return to Sea!
Though the long pause on cruise travel seemed endless, it has come to an end. While the CDC made random pronouncements that cruise ships could not sail from US ports prior to November 1, 2021, based on pre-vaccine circumstances as of October 2020, cruise lines did not wait for responsible US action. Last year, the industry established a Healthy Sails Panel tasked with deploying the best science available to make ships healthy.
Cruise lines have evolved to a heightened era of health consciousness, much like previous actions to be good stewards of the ocean environment. Expect your next cruise to be on a ship with hospital grade air filters and disinfectant fogging of corridors in the evening. Ships are equipped with guest testing at kiosks. Medical crews are expanded. Initial sailings require vaccinated guests. Shore excursions are planned in a protective manner.
Anticipating resumption of sailing in April 2021, cruise lines collected crews from around the world on ships, where they administered Covid-19 vaccines at company expense. Response of the CDC in April was a random order that sailing not begin until November.
Frustrated by Washington, cruise lines became vocal. The president of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, parent of Royal Caribbean, Celebrity and Silver Sea, produced a video in which he disclosed what the US press kept hidden, that is, six months of sailing with 400,000 healthy passengers on several ocean and river cruise lines. The president of Norwegian Cruise Lines, parent of Norwegian, Oceania and Regent Seven Seas wrote an open letter to the CDC indicating that having met high self-imposed standards, in the absence of government guidance, sailing would resume.
Cruise companies are nimble, but they cannot turn ships on a dime. They are due timely and responsible government action, based on facts, not politics. The cruise lines acted based on science. Their aim is to gain guest confidence.
Faced with an absence of CDC response to the Healthy Sail initiative, Celebrity announced sailing from St. Maarten in June. Viking Ocean will sail Bermuda and Iceland in June and July. The Regent Seven Seas Splendor will sail from Britain in September. Oceania plans to sail from Los Angeles in October. Newcomer to the sea, Atlas Ocean Voyages will sail the Caribbean. Scenic Cruises is sailing the Mississippi River. Other lines have plans to sail from non-US ports this fall. Cabins on most sailings booked quickly to capacity. Knowledgeable travelers trust cruise lines more than they trust government.
Caught in a political embargo on his seaports, the governor of Florida sued the US to open the ports. Generally stated, Florida accused the CDC of arbitrary and capricious inaction. On April 28, without explanation, the CDC capitulated. Ships may sail in June.
Do not expect ships to rush to ports. Cruise lines have higher than government standards. Their goal is guest enjoyment of healthy cruising. Expect some accelerated, phased return to sea. Cruise ships are ready for healthy sailing. Required are healthy ports and port facilities. Shore excursions depend on healthy venues ashore. Changes to itineraries will occur based on local circumstances.
When booking your next cruise consider the itinerary, available staterooms, and the healthy environment provided by your chosen cruise line. A healthy era of cruises awaits.