Last Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that “travelers defer all cruise travel worldwide.”  The CDC issued a level 3 warning – “Avoid Nonessential Travel – Widespread Ongoing Transmission.” The CDC stated that “Cruise passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19, and outbreaks of COVID-19 have been reported on several cruise ships.”

“Recent reports of COVID-19 on cruises highlight the risk of infections to cruise passengers and crew. Like many other viruses, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships and boats. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there remains a risk of infected passengers and crew on board cruise ships.”

As we reported last week,  cruise lines often tout European cruise ships as proof that cruising can be conducted in a safe manner despite the coronavirus pandemic. But the truth is that there have been over 100 guests and crew members infected with COVID-19 on cruises in Europe, including 74 infected on Hurtigruten cruise ships: MS Roald Amundsen (71) and MS Finnmarken (3 with one death), 8 people on the Costa Diadema, 8 on the Vasco da Gama river cruise ship, one on the Silversea Silver Spirit, and 13 (so far) on the Vista Serenity river cruise ship operated by tour operator AVista Reisen.

There are a record number of COVID-19 cases in Europe. Costa Cruises is now blocking passengers from France and other countries with COVID-19 infection rates higher than Italy’s, according to Seatrade Cruise News. However, Costa is ignoring the fact that Italy is now experiencing an unprecedented number of new cases of coronavirus.

The CDC’s warning comes at a time when there is a surge in the U.S., as well as in Europe, of new COVID-19 cases. This weekend, the U.S. reported more than 83,000 coronavirus cases two days in a row (Friday and Saturday) with a record seven day average of over 68,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, co-chair of the RCL-NCL joint “Healthy Sail” panel, warned this weekend of an approaching “difficult winter.” “We are likely to see a very dense epidemic,” Dr. Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday. “I think we are right now at the cusp of what is going to be exponential spread in parts of the country.”

The CDC is urging that all people defer all travel, including cruise ships, including river cruises, but other means of travel.  Travel by plane, train, or bus also increases the chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. The CDC states that “airports, bus stations, train stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces. These are also places where it can be hard to social distance. In general, the longer you are around a person with COVID-19, the more likely you are to get infected.”

The CDC’s latest no-sail order expires on October 31st. If scientific prudence, rather than political partisanship, pevails then the no-sail order will be extended. It has been widely reported that the CDC was set to extend the last no-sail order until February 15, 2021, but was overruled by Vice President Mike Pence.

It is reckless for the cruise industry to continue to pressure the CDC to lift the no-sail ban in light of the record number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., which follows the trend in Europe.

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Photo credit: Costa Diadema – Z thomas – CC BY-SA 4.0  commons / wikimedia; COVID19 Chart – CNCB.