Last Thursday, April 9th, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a no-sail order continuing the suspension of cruise operations for another 100 days until July 25th. (100 days after the CDC order was filed into the Federal Registry on April 15th) Despite the CDC’s order, the cruise lines continue to advertise and sell cruises before the July 25th start up date.
The CDC stated that the 100 day extension could be shortened if the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services declares that COVID-19 no longer constitutes a public health emergency, or that the CDC Director rescinds the order based on public health considerations. Otherwise, the 100 days extension will result in no cruises from U.S. ports or territories until July 24th.
Below is a brief summary of the CDC’s orders and the reasons behind them.
First Order Motivated By Diamond Princess and Grand Princess Outbreaks – Cruise Travel May “Exacerbate Global Spread of COVID-19”
The original no sail order was prompted by the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess outbreaks. The CDC determined that cruise ship travel may “continue to introduce, transmit or spread COVID-19.” It concluded that cruise ship travel may “exacerbate the global spread of COVID-19.”
Second Order Based on Costa Favalosa, Costa Favalosa, Celebrity Eclipse, Disney Wonder, HAL’s Zaandam, and Princess’ Coral Princess Outbreaks
Since its first no sail order, the CDC studied additional outbreaks of COVID-19 on cruise ships over the past month. It analysed outbreaks on the Costa Favalosa, Costa Favalosa, Celebrity Eclipse, Disney Wonder, HAL’s Zaandam, and Princess’ Coral Princess (photo right). The CDC noted that there were also 114 cruise ships with nearly 90,000 crew members aboard in ports or off the shores of both coasts of the U.S. 15 cruise ships had crew members aboard with positive COVID-19 tests who required medical treatment. The CDC concluded that the demands posed by ill crew members will overwhelm the already burdened U.S. healthcare system.
In its most recent order the CDC concluded that if unrestricted cruise ship passenger operations were permitted to resume, infected cruise guests and employees would expose healthcare workers to unnecessary risk. The cruise industry would divert medical resources away from persons with COVID-19 and other medical problems, consume precious diagnostics, therapeutics, and protective equipment, and unnecessarily draw on federal, state and local funds in the U.S.
CDC Rejects Cruise Industry COVID-19 Response Plan
The cruise industry submitted a plan called “Framework: For Cruise Industry Care of Crew and Passengers On Board Ships While Idle During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” According to the CDC order, which you can see here, the cruise industry’s plan did not adequately explain how cruise lines intended to provide medical care for critically ill crew members or to reduce the burden on shore-side hospital resources. The plan also did not adequately detail how cruise lines planned to provide mitigation and preventative strategies, implement disinfection protocols, provide personal protection equipment (PPE), transport ill employees to hospital ashore or repatriate crew members home without taxing U.S. governmental resources.
The CDC ordered the cruise industry to submit a new comprehensive and detailed operational plan to address the COVID-19 pandemic no later than April 17th. The plan must be accepted and approved by the CDC and USCG.
Cruise Industry’s Lackadaisical Response to CDC Order
In response to the CDC’s extension of the cruise suspension, cruise lines are taking a casual “wait and see” approach. The popular Cruise Radio blog accurately characterized the response as “seemingly-contradictory.“
CLIA Disputes the CDC’s Factual Findings Regarding COVID-19
The cruise industry’s trade organization, the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), bluntly expressed its concerns about the “unintended consequences” of the CDC’s new order in a carefully worded press release. CLIA revealed its apprehension of the new order, stating that the CDC is allegedly “singling out the cruise industry, which has been proactive in its escalation of health and sanitation protocols and was one of the first industries to announce a voluntary suspension of services.”
CLIA claims that “cruising is neither the source or cause of the virus or its spread” and specifically denied that there is a “higher frequency of infection” on cruise ships. The claims are akin to the roundly criticized remarks of Carnival CEO Arnold Donald who stated in an Axios interview that cruise ships should be compared to Central Park (which ironically has been closed due to the coronavirus pandemic). He claimed that there is allegedly a lot of “natural social distancing” on a cruise ship which “is not a riskier environment.” He also said that there are “hundreds of cruise ships out there” and “very few had cases on them.”
CLIA made these questionable claims without offering any evidence to contradict the CDC’s detailed analysis that cruise ships are responsible for continuing to “introduce, transmit or spread” COVID-19.
CLIA has not even bothered to post the new CDC order but instead has pinned its response to the CDC’s old order on the top of its Twitter feed:
With the CDC recent no sail upto the next 100 days when will you voluntarily cancel sailings? You shouldn't be asking for the remaining balance of a cruise is you can't guarantee it will sail.
— GoldiLocks (@GoldiLo04726840) April 10, 2020
One of CLIA’s managing directors stated that “travelers will ultimately make their own decisions” which is akin to telling cruise customers not to pay attention to what the scientists or infectious disease experts are saying about whether it is safe to cruise.
All of the cruise lines individually have pushed back against the CDC’s order.
Carnival Cruise Line Defies CDC Order and Suspends Sailing Only Through June 26
Carnival Cruise Line originally stated that it intended to suspend cruising until May 11th – nearly 75 days earlier than ordered by the CDC. “We are aware of the CDC notice published on Thursday. We are evaluating those recommendations and continuing our discussions with industry and government officials. Our existing pause in operations remains in effect through May 11, 2020. Should our plans change, we will notify guests and travel agents and share information on Carnival.com.”
Our existing pause in operations remains in effect through May 11, 2020. Should our plans change, we will notify guests and travel agents and share information on https://t.co/tZmxXIo0Wz.
— Carnival Cruise Line (@CarnivalCruise) April 13, 2020
Yesterday afternoon, Carnival announced that it would pause its North American sailing only through June 26th, still almost a month earlier than the date ordered by the CDC:
Important update regarding all North America sailings through June 26, 2020. pic.twitter.com/Y5UUHLkVFo
— Carnival Cruise Line (@CarnivalCruise) April 13, 2020
Princess Cruises Defies CDC Order and Suspends Cruising Only to May 10
Princess Cruises is “evaluating”the CDC’s new order but it is still saying that its cruise are suspended only until May 10th:
Please explain what you are “evaluating”. These cruises are now *not legal*. I don’t know what the hell you’re trying to pull here.
— Courtney (@JeannieGoldWP) April 13, 2020
Royal Caribbean Defies CDC Order and Suspends Cruising Only Through May 11
Royal Caribbean said similar remarks on its Twitter feed. “We are aware of the CDC order and are studying how best to respond to its provisions.” Its tweets read. “Our global sailings are currently suspended through May 11, 2020.” A typical response on Twitter by Royal Caribbean:
Hi, Nicholas. We are aware of the CDC order and are studying how best to respond to its provisions. Our global sailings are currently suspended through May 11, 2020. We'll provide updates as they become available. – JT
— Royal Caribbean (@RoyalCaribbean) April 13, 2020
Norwegian Cruise Line Defies CDC Order and Suspends Cruising Only Until May 11
Norwegian Cruise Line continues to offer cruises as early as June. It refers to “a period of uncertainty” in the tweet below notwithstanding the clear terms of the CDC mandatory order. It states on its website that it plans to “relaunch cruise operations with embarkations beginning May 11, 2020.”
@CruiseNorwegian I just checked the status of my 5/29 cruise and have to wonder? Have you not seen the CDC's no-sail order?
— Cheryl Bartlett #TeamPeteForever🐝 (@bubblybubba) April 10, 2020
During this period of uncertainty, we will continue to evaluate the options of any impacted itineraries & will share additional updates as they become available. We greatly appreciate your patience & understanding as we continue to navigate through this evolving situation. (2/2)
— Cruise Norwegian (@CruiseNorwegian) April 10, 2020
The CDC Order is Mandatory
In light of the nonchalant attitude of CLIA and the cruise lines, one would think that the order is optional. But the cruise lines cannot voluntarily decide whether to comply with the order. The CDC states that its order is a “major rule” under the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) and has the full force and effect of a law passed by Congress.
The Cruise Industry is Still Smarting From Its Exclusion from a Congressional Bailout
Members of CLIA are still scrambling after they were excluded from the two trillion dollar bailout due to the fact that the cruise industry’s annual billion dollar revenues are excluded from U.S. income taxes by the foreign incorporation of cruise lines and foreign registration of cruise ships. Carnival Cruise Line is incorporated in Panama, Royal Caribbean Cruises in Liberia,and Norwegian Cruise Line in the Bahamas to escape not only U.S. taxes but U.S. wages and labor laws and U.S. occupational health and safety laws.
Cruise Lines Kept Selling Cruises and Guests and Crew Kept Dying
Notwithstanding its motto that the “health and safety of its guests and crew” is its highest priority, the cruise industry’s trade organization CLIA has proven that cruise profits remains the cruise lines’ primary motivation. First, cruising should have been suspended in February when the Diamond Princess debacle unfolded. During February 7–23, 2020, the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases outside mainland China occurred on this Princess Cruises cruise ship, which was quarantined in the port of Yokohama, Japan, on February 3rd. 712 guests and crew members tested positive for COVID-19, several dozens of people required intensive care, and nine died.
But Princess kept selling cruise tickets. Additional guests and crew were infected on the Grand Princess, Ruby Princess, Coral Princess and numerous other cruise ships. The CDC’s analysis of cruise ship infections, although detailed, is not complete. There are many dozens of ships off of the coast of Florida which routinely send their ill crew members with COVID-19 to port in Miami and Fort Lauderdale several times a week. On the west coast of the U.S., 38 crew members are ill with COVID-19 in addition to dozens of passengers who sailed on the Disney Wonder from New Orleans to San Diego earlier in March. Crew members and guests from Princess Cruises, Costa, Royal Caribbean and other ships have continued to die each week.
Cruising is Not Critical
CLIA’s chairman, former cruise executive Adam Goldstein, claimed that “it is critical that Americans keep traveling” when he met with Vice President Pence in Fort Lauderdale a month ago. He was largely mocked on Twitter for his tone deaf view of the leisurely hobby of cruising:
Adam Goldstein, speaking for the cruise line industry, is on CNBC saying it's perfectly safe for people of all ages to go on cruises.
— Terry J. Clark (@TJCinRaleigh) March 11, 2020
CNBC is talking about the cruise industry AGAIN!
Maybe if Trump, Pence & Mnuchin spent as much time worrying about getting #Coronavirus tests to the public as they do protecting assets of companies that don’t pay US taxes, we’d be heading in right direction.
Profits > people. pic.twitter.com/72RbD85ifL
— Dawn (@Alba_Dawn) March 11, 2020
Cruise stocks have fallen as much as 80% from their 52 week highs due to the coronavirus pandemic. The New York Times reported that the Saudi Arabia’s state investment fund acquired a stake in Carnival Corporation which has already drawn on bank credit lines and attempted to raise $6 billion by selling stock, bonds and other securities. Norwegian Cruise Line has tapped a $1.55 billion credit line and last month Royal Caribbean secured a $2.2 billion loan, using its ships as collateral.
Holding Onto Other People’s Money in Order to Stay Afloat
All of the cruise lines have been accused of holding onto their customers’ refunds for as long as possible. Excursion tour companies in the Caribbean have complained that Carnival has not paid their tour operators for services rendered for over a month.
Money, Not Health and Safety, is CLIA’s Priority
The fact is that that no cruises will leave from a U.S. port pursuant to the CDC order until July 25th. But you would never know that looking at the cruise industry selling cruises from U.S. ports as early as May.
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Top – first responders evacuate sick crew members from two cruise ships, the Costa Favolosa and Costa Magica at the U.S. Coast Guard station at the Port of Miami in Miami, Fla., March 26, 2020. Carlos Barria / Reuters via National Review.
A patient is medically evacuated from the HAL Zaandam cruise ship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, April 2, 2020. Charles Trainor Jr. via Miami Herald.