Wall Street analyst slams CDC’s ‘unjust’ treatment of cruise industry, accuses organization of being unwilling to hold dialogue on COVID-19 health protocols
The cruise industry is being discriminated against by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which has allowed resorts and casinos to welcome guests and airlines to fly, but has retained its no-sail order for cruise ships, says a Wall Street analyst covering Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.
Harry Curtis, an analyst for Instinet, a branch of the Japanese financial group Nomura, said that while the cruise industry has been developing health protocols, the CDC has been unwilling to engage in a dialogue with the industry.
“The issue is not that the industry has been passive in developing health protocols. Quite the contrary. In our view, the hurdle lies with the CDC’s unwillingness to discuss, debate and mutually implement the highest standards of passenger and crew healthcare,” Curtis stated.
“The major cruise operators have established a panel of leading virologists and health policy experts, which has, for many weeks, submitted suggestions for new protocols, with limited interest by the CDC in a two-sided discussion about resuming sailing,” he continued.
An imminent return to cruising is not on the cards
The cruise industry has been in complete shut down since the CDC issued a 100-day no sail order on March 14 and not only is there as yet any indication as to when the no sail order will be lifted, earlier this week the CDC hinted that an imminent return to cruising was not on the cards.
“We don’t have enough information at this time to say when it will be safe to resume sailing with passengers. Cruise lines may need to establish additional safety measures before sailing with passengers is permitted to resume. CDC will continue to evaluate and update its recommendations as the situation evolves,” the CDC said in a statement.
Curtis said the CDC’s messaging seems to be “don’t even think about resuming operations, even if most businesses are reopening, resorts and casinos are welcoming guests, and airlines are taking off with many flights near capacity with not a peep of objection from the CDC.
He said that was completely unfair.
Another 3 to 6 months for the CDC to respond to the expert panel’s recommendations
“It would seem that the cruise industry, its passengers and employees have been viewed by the CDC in the same vein as meat packing plants, nursing homes, and prisons. The industry has little recourse or avenues of appeal. It (the CDC) has the power to keep ships at anchor and impound or quarantine ships should they decide to sail.
“At this pace, it may take another month to disembark all crew members and another 3 to 6 months for the CDC to respond to the expert panel’s recommendations. By then, the 2020 season is over.
“In our view, there is something unjust about such unilateral treatment. We believe the sooner the CDC reconsiders the cruise industry as a willing partner, the faster employees get back to work and dedicated cruise customers can enjoy the same opportunity offered to resort, casino and airline customers.”
The analyst’s comments came after Norwegian an extension of its previously announced suspension of global cruise voyages to include all voyages embarking between August 1 and September 30, 2020.
Like Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises, it had earlier said it would commence a phased return to cruising on August 1, if circumstances allowed.
It is as yet unclear, whether Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises will follow suit or forge ahead with plans for an August 1 return.
Richard Fine: “we will start as soon as we and the relevant authorities are satisfied”
In a video update to travel advisors Thursday, Royal Caribbean CEO Richard Fain did not mention when the company’s ships would resume cruising, saying just that, “our operations will start small and they will start carefully, but we will start as soon as we and the relevant authorities are satisfied that all the appropriate health processes and procedures are in place.
“We’ve established a blue-ribbon panel made up of some of the most knowledgeable and experienced people in the world. These are leading experts in all the relevant fields, including epidemiology, infectious diseases, public policy and regulation, engineering and general health safety. They really are the best of the best. We think they will help us with a faster and more comprehensive analysis and we will be announcing more about this in the near future.”
A spokesman for Carnival Cruises parent company, Carnival Corporation, told USA Today earlier this week that there was no formal schedule for return at this point despite the company having announced earlier this month that eight ships would set sail in August.
“There has been no formal decision that those eight will sail, but they are not canceled at this point,” the spokesman said.
Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise operator, which in addition to Carnival Cruise Line operates Princess Cruises, Holland America Line, P&O Cruises, Costa Cruises, AIDA Cruises, Seabourn, and Cunard reported a loss of $4.4 billion for the second quarter 2020.
The company has announced plans to sell off six ships after taking in revenues of just $700 million, compared to $4.8 billion in the parallel period last year.