Just days after Carnival and Norwegian extended a suspension on cruises through the end of 2020, the group, Cruise Lines International Association, which represents cruise lines with 95% of global ocean-going capacity said Tuesday that its members have agreed to extend the suspension of U.S. sailing operations for the rest of the year as the novel coronavirus disease.
In the meantime, several Caribbean countries have already barred ships with incoming passengers from entering their ports from earlier in the year due to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic entering their shores.
The announcement come just days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released its “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order,” which replaced its eight-month “no sail” order expired over the weekend.
The new order which was published on Friday allows cruise ships to sail in U.S. waters effective of this week. The first cruises to leave port will be simulation sailings (without passengers) designed to demonstrate that ships and crews are in compliance with CDC standards and able to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) onboard the ships.
The Association, which includes cruise lines, Carnival, Princess and Royal Caribbean, said that its members choose to maintain the current suspension of cruise operations in the United States through the end of 2020.
The Association said that members “will use the remainder of the year to prepare for the implementation of extensive measures to address COVID-19 safety” with the guidance of public health experts and CDC.
Carnival Corp., which operates nine of the world’s leading cruise lines, announced in a press release Monday that “it will extend its operations pause for North American brands through December 31. Cruise lines affected by this suspension include Carnival Cruise Line, Cunard North America, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises and Seabourn.”
Royal Caribbean Group which owns several cruise lines, including Azamara, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Silversea said “the extended suspension through the end of 2020 does not apply to sailings from Singapore and that some of its cruise lines have canceled sailings into 2021. Celebrity Cruises has suspended its entire 2020/2021 winter sailings in Australia and Asia. Azamara canceled its 2020/2021 winter sailings in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America, a news release on the company’s website stated.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd., owner of Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, has also extended its cruising suspension through December 31.
Passengers with affected voyages are advised to contact the cruise lines.
The cruise industry has been closed since mid-March after having outbreaks of the highly contagious novel coronavirus on ships. The CDC had ordered cruise ships in mid-March to stop sailing to U.S. ports after experience heavy outbreaks of the fatal and contagious virus.
Shares in major cruise line companies started to decline in February, hitting rock bottom in mid-March while the coronavirus impacted the United States shutting shut down its economy. More than 70% of the value of cruise line companies have been wiped out. Meanwhile, the Association estimates that over $25 billion in economic activity and 164,000 American jobs have been lost from the cruise industry.
Federal health officials in the United States on Friday issued new rules that will enable large cruise ships to start sailing again in U.S. waters in the future. The CDC’s requirements state that ship owners must test all passengers and crew at the start and end of all voyages, which are limited to seven days.
In order to resume transporting passengers, companies have to demonstrate that they have procedures for testing, quarantining and isolating passengers and crew, according to CDC’s guidelines from last week. The cruise companies will need to build test labs on all their ships and make arrangements to isolate or quarantine passengers on shore if needed. Mock voyages with volunteers playing passengers who get sick will also have to be done before the ships can sail again.