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CDC rejects cruise industry’s request to lift No Sail Order

The agency is being pressured by industry officials and lawmakers alike

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The cruise industry gave its best effort to try to convince the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lift its No Sail Order, but no dice. The CDC has formally rejected the industry’s request, leaving cruise lines to either sit and sulk or try to entice anxious American travelers to fly elsewhere to board a cruise ship.

The CDC wasted no time responding to the cries of cruise operators. On Wednesday, the agency made it clear that the shutdown will remain in effect until at least November 1, 2021.

“Returning to passenger cruising is a phased approach to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19,” Jade Fulce, a Public Affairs Specialist for the CDC, told ConsumerAffairs. “Details for the next phase of the CSO are currently under interagency review.”

When ConsumerAffairs reached out to the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) for a comment on the CDC’s stance, its president Zane Kerby expressed his deep disappointment 

“The CDC’s continued inaction in removing cruise restrictions imperil livelihoods and communities in South Florida, up to now the de facto cruise capital of the world, and far beyond. It is a shame that the CDC’s inflexibility has brought us to this point,” he said.

Senator also turns up heat on CDC 

The cruise industry isn’t the only source of pressure that the CDC is facing. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski went after CDC director Rochelle Walensky last week to try to pin down which agencies had the authority to make decisions concerning the No Sail Order. However, Walensky wasn’t exactly sure.

"This is an interagency decision, it is not a decision solely up to the CDC. The decision is not totally up to us," Walensky said. When Murkowski pressed Walensky for a clearer answer, she said she couldn’t provide one because she didn’t believe that “it's solely in our jurisdiction to address."

Like Florida, Alaska is in the thick of this cruise-related issue. Not only are businesses in the state reliant on the economic impact that cruise ships bring, but some cruise itineraries go through Canadian waters, and Canada has banned all cruise ships -- another burr in Murkowski’s saddle.

“We sent two letters to Prime Minister Trudeau. It’s hard, because we’re all operating in a time of COVID so we don’t want to imply that we want to risk health and safety for the purpose of our economy, but we are seeking areas of cooperation as to how we can move people safely. To do that, Canada must be willing to work with us,” Murkowksi said in a meeting with Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and National Security Advisor (NSA) Jake Sullivan.

“We don’t have many points of entry that they have to worry about, but they have cut off all points of entry—by land and by sea. We are truly an island,” she added.

Consumers still have options

Impatient travelers still have options, but they’re going to have to invest in extra travel costs to satisfy their cruise craving. Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises plan to restart operations in June from the Bahamas and St. Maarten. Crystal Cruises has also announced plans to base one of its cruise ships in the Bahamas starting in July.

Greece is also opening its doors to international visitors in mid-May. Vaccinated Americans over 18 and minors with negative COVID-19 tests will be welcome aboard. Crews will also be fully vaccinated.

Celebrity Cruises is the first cruise line to take advantage of the situation, announcing that its new Edge series ship will make its world debut in Greece this summer beginning June 19.

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