The CDC Has Banned This One Thing Until October, Thanks to COVID
This $45 billion industry might be sunk if it can't figure out how to adapt for the future.
The travel industry has taken an unprecedented hit thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, with airlines reporting record losses and tourism-related businesses such as hotels and restaurants held in limbo due to forced shutdowns and travel restrictions. But the cruise industry may be the most affected in both the short and long term, as the large ships that were once the early flashpoint sites of COVID-19 outbreaks have been legally unable to set sail since mid-March. Now, it would appear that they'll be sitting in port for even longer: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it's extending its ban on cruises through September 30, thanks to increased COVID-19 cases.
While the agency's current moratorium on cruising through U.S. waters was set to lapse on July 24, recent figures have highlighted the danger of hitting the high seas before it's safe to do so—especially as an environment that is already known to spread contagious diseases. With 2,973 reported coronavirus infections and 34 COVID-19-related deaths on cruise ships in 2020, CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said in a statement that the numbers "revealed a total of 99 outbreaks on 123 different cruise ships, meaning that 80 percent of ships within U.S. jurisdiction were affected by COVID-19."
The CDC's no-sail order was originally issued on March 14, then extended the first time on April 15 before this most recent extension. The agency's decision comes weeks after the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), whose members include the largest cruise lines in the world, voluntarily extended their own agreement to suspend operations through September 15.
"Although we are confident that future cruises will be healthy and safe, and will fully reflect the latest protective measures, we also feel that it is appropriate to err on the side of caution to help ensure the best interests of our passengers and crewmembers," they announced in their June 19 press release, saying they would also be consulting with the CDC on appropriate safety measures.
Cruise lines are now struggling with a way to update their experiences for a new post-pandemic future. The $45 billion industry is currently grappling with the fact that the older demographic that makes up the bulk of their repeat business is also the most likely to be seriously affected by coronavirus.
"The cruise industry is taking a holistic approach to planning for COVID-19 safety, when sailing is allowed, that would ideally entail a door-to-door strategy beginning at the time of booking through the passengers' return home," Bari Golin-Blaugrund, a spokeswoman for CLIA, told The New York Times in late June. However, in regard to any concrete plans or ideas on how to make the high seas safer for cruise passengers, she replied, "We're not there yet." And for more on how travel has been impacted by coronavirus, check out 13 Things You May Never See on Airplanes Again After Coronavirus.