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Since discussing concerns that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) might be discriminating against the cruise industry, the government agency made a surprising move: The experts called on the public (as well as interested organizations) to get their opinions. And now, hundreds of comments have been published on Regulations.gov, a U.S. government website for public commentary regarding federal decision making.
The CDC’s no-sail order for cruising is still in effect through Sept. 30, and Cruise Lines International Association’s own voluntary suspension of sailing is on through Oct. 31. Of course, these dates have been pushed back several times already. Whether all parties will agree to a resumption on a firm date is still to be determined.
Contributing to those decisions will be health and safety plans proposed by the cruise lines, as well as public comments such as those found on Regulations.gov — if CDC’s call for submissions is any indication.
A recent anonymously posted comment specifically addresses cruise lines’ role as a scapegoat and the apparent discrepancy between CDC’s permission of air travel versus cruising:
“I feel that the cruise industry as a whole is being blamed for the spread of COVID-19, especially at the start of the outbreak in February/March 2020 when they were following CDC guidelines,” the poster wrote. “And now the industry is being held to a different standard to restart operations. I never got an illness while cruising, [though] I have picked up many colds and viruses while flying. It is time to let the cruise industry start back up, even at a reduced capacity.”
As you would expect, there are also naysayers:
“I am a travel agent, but I am not supportive of opening cruising. I believe a vaccine would have to be available before I would recommend cruising to anyone,” said one commenter.
“There should be a continued no-sail order for cruise ships,” another added. “People will not socially distance, and it will just spread more COVID-19.”
For travel agents who wish to chime in, CDC will be open to receiving responses for another month here.
Still, others are ready to cruise, but only once risk-mitigating measures are lifted:
“I would not cruise if passengers have to social distance or wear masks. I will wait until the pandemic is over to cruise again,” wrote one user.
Most advocates, though, fall into the category of wanting cruises to set sail again sooner than later:
"I would be on a cruise ship today if I could,” said one traveler. “The cruise lines are all doing an amazing job of assuring their guests and crew have a safe experience with them. Cruise ships have always done a good job of sanitizing the ship and having hand sanitizing and hand washing stations available. Now they are doing even more.”
"I believe we should resume sailings as soon as possible and let the consumer decide the risk/reward,” wrote another.
As a trusted travel advisor and agent for over 20 years, I am asking you to be fair to the cruise industry.
More than anything, though, there is a sense of confusion as to why the CDC is treating the cruise industry far differently than other travel segments:
“I read through all your questions, and all that it tells me is that you do not seem to know what to do,” said one commenter. Are you doing this for the airlines, buses, hotels, etc.?”
“If it’s okay to fly and go to theme parks, then it should be okay to cruise,” said another. “Cruises are so much cleaner than an airplane.”
“We don't see a no-fly or no-shuttle bus order from the CDC?” wrote a third. “Yes, the shipboard environment is different than others mentioned above. Let the industry implement protocols that reflects this and allow an informed public to decide to cruise or not.”
Travel advisors are also sharing their thoughts online:
“As a trusted travel advisor and agent for over 20 years, I am asking you to be fair to the cruise industry,” wrote one advisor. “I have hundreds of customers willing and able to cruise this year. Please be fair and stop hurting such a large part of the travel industry.”
“I would love to see cruising come back,” added another. “I am a travel agent, and this is my livelihood that you have taken away from me. You should allow people to make their own decision if they would like to cruise again. Open the cruise lines immediately! I want to travel again and so do my clients.”