The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday extended its no sail order for all cruise ships through the end of September, as the U.S. continues to battle rising numbers of coronavirus cases.
The CDC issued its initial no sail order on March 14, which it subsequently extended to July 24.
Thursday’s order bans operations on commercial passenger vessels with capacity to carry at least 250 passengers in waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction until September 30, unless the Secretary of Health and Human Services declares COVID-19 no longer constitutes a public health emergency or if the CDC director rescinds or modifies the order, the agency said.
The world’s largest cruise industry trade association, Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), last month announced a voluntary suspension of cruise operations from U.S. ports until September 15, and individual operators have set other dates of their own, including Carnival Cruise Line which extended its operational pause for North American voyages until September 30. Carnival’s AIDA Cruises has canceled all U.S. port calls for the rest of 2020.
The CDC also said its cumulative data from March 1 to July 10 shows a total of 2,973 COVID-19 or “COVID-like illness” cases as well as 34 deaths on cruise ships, nine of them still having ongoing or resolving outbreaks on board. During this time frame, 80% of ships were affected by COVID-19, including 99 outbreaks on 123 different cruise ships.
“On cruise ships, passengers and crew share spaces that are more crowded than most urban settings. Even when only essential crew are on board, ongoing spread of COVID-19 still occurs,” the CDC said. “If unrestricted cruise ship passenger operations were permitted to resume, passengers and crew on board would be at increased risk of COVID-19 infection and those that work or travel on cruise ships would place substantial unnecessary risk on healthcare workers, port personnel and federal partners (i.e., Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Coast Guard), and the communities they return to.”
CLIA said it welcomed the CDC order, including the agency’s intention to issue a request for information about the industry’s resumption of passenger operations. “As we continue to work towards the development of enhanced protocols to support the safe resumption of cruise operations around the world, we look forward to timely and productive dialogue with the CDC to determine measures that will be appropriate for oceangoing cruise operations to resume in the United States when the time is right,” the association said.
Stuck at a virtual standstill since March, the cruise industry has been among those hardest hit by COVID-19. Norwegian Cruise Line said earlier Thursday it expected “insignificant” revenue in the second quarter amid wave of cancellations and steep fall in bookings, while rival Carnival Corp said Wednesday it plans to raise about $1.26 billion in bond offerings.