Cruise industry executives have lashed out at the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), charging the public health organization with treating it unfairly.
Senior executives from the world’s four largest cruise lines took part in a virtual meeting of the Miami-Dade County Tourism and the Ports Committee on Thursday morning with Norwegian cruise line president and CEO leading the charge.
‘Enough is enough,” Del Rio said. “I want someone to tell me how it’s possible that COVID-19 transmission doesn’t occur on airplanes when you’re sitting four inches away from someone in a middle seat, yet it happens on a ship that is nearly 200,000 tons.
“It is unconscionable what’s happened to the cruise industry. We’ve been quiet for too long…. It’s time to raise our voices. It’s time to let them [know that we are confident of our protocols. We are confident that we can operate safely in this COVID-19 world.”
CDC acting unfairly to cruise industry
Vice Chairwoman of the Miami-Dade County Tourism and the Ports Committee, Rebeca Sosa also said that the CDC is acting unfairly toward the cruise industry – which is worth some $8.5 billion in direct spending to the Florida economy – and failing to engage with it.
“While other industries have been allowed to reopen in phases, the cruise industry remains totally shut down,” Sosa said. “In April, the CDC gave the cruise industry seven days to come up with a lay-up plan, and the cruise industry worked tirelessly and gave them the plan in seven days. The CDC took 14 weeks to somewhat respond to the plan that was presented.”
Sosa continued that the CDC was not paying attention and communicating with the cruise industry on its plans for a resumption of sailing.
The cruise industry, she said, cannot wait another 14 weeks to get some feedback from the CDC once the process for submitting comments to the CDC ends on September 21.
“The cruise lines will need immediate engagement and action from the CDC in order to reopen,” she said.
“Listen to us,” Sosa added, “You are listening to a lot of people but you are not listening to this industry.”
MSC Cruises says successful European restart can point the way for US
Rick Sasso, chairman of MSC Cruises USA, noted the success the company has had in restarting operations in Europe with its flagship MSC Grandiosa, which went back to sea in mid August, and is now on its fourth consecutive cruise – without any reported COVID-19 infections.
“Our experience to date shows that cruising can be done safely with sufficient planning, protective measures, and then adhering to stringent protocols. NSC has taken this responsibility very seriously and our efforts have been extensive and to help ensure that cruising can offer one of the very safest forms of leisure and travel even in these challenging times,” he said.
Royal Caribbean International CEO: It’s time that the cruise industry returned to service
Arnold Donald, President and CEO of the world’s largest cruise line, Carnival Corporation, also noted the company’s Italian brand Costa Cruises had resumed sailing in the Meditteranean and that its German brand AIDA Cruises is due to restart operations in September.
Donald however took a softer tone than his counterparts, saying that the company had a long history of working together collaboratively with the CDC to address public health issues and that it was “totally committed to working with CDC to address COVID.”
Does Donald know something that executives from other cruise lines don’t know?
Two weeks ago, he said in an interview with Seatrade Cruise News, prior to Costa’s restart, that “it’s definitely possible we could sail again in 2020 from the US.”
Earlier this week, another Carnival executive seemed to suggest that cruise operations could resume in November.
Talking on Facebook Live, Carnival Brand Ambassador and senior director, John Heald, said: “The latest news is we are extremely hopeful that we will cruise in November, and possibly before, on shorter, modified cruises. And we are working with the CDC, we’ve got very smart people who’ve put a plan together to keep everybody safe and make sure that the fun is going to continue for you.”
Royal Caribbean International President & CEO Michael Bayley also refrained from directly criticizing the CDC saying just that “we’re very optimistic that we will be able to return to service. We’re certainly better prepared today than we were yesterday, and we believe we will be better prepared for tomorrow.”
He added: “It’s time that the cruise industry returned to service and we’re ready.”