July 23, 2020
On Tuesday, a friend forwarded to me a copy of an ad from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that appeared in a local newspaper. It defined “higher risk” populations and provided what is now standard counsel to protect yourself: wash hands often, avoid crowds, and practice social distancing. The last call to action, appearing in bold type, was to “avoid all cruise travel.” Then yesterday, a CDC official lamented publicly that cruise lines “continued to book trips in late 2020 and 2021,” suggesting that was somehow irresponsible.
The demonization of cruising must stop.
The CDC issued a ‘no cruise’ order in March for all major cruise lines operating out of U.S. ports. It has been extended several times, and currently runs through September 30th. Since no ships are sailing, at its own order, does the CDC really need to remind people not to get on cruise ships?
We’re conditioning American travelers to believe that cruising is ‘bad’ and then looking the other way when industry leaders point to real solutions that could mitigate the risks for travelers. We can no longer avoid the conversation surrounding the fact that our own government is not helping where it can and should. Rather – our own government is shirking responsibility and playing an active role bringing the travel industry to its knees.
The American Society of Travel Advisors has petitioned the Administration and the CDC over the course of nearly two months. Our ask: guidance on how cruise lines and travelers can manage health risks while cruising. We expected some combination of:
Neither the CDC nor the Administration has provided any public response until a recent media interview with Skift. In the interview, the CDC official provided no guidance and instead besmirched the overall reputation of the cruise lines as somehow irresponsible for simply booking cruises they hope they’ll be able to sail in the future.
Cruise ships have been furloughed since March. COVID-19’s rising infection and death rate (in late July) suggests that cruising is not to blame. But what’s most disturbing about the ad and article is that it takes the focus from where it should be - solutions. The CDC should also partner with the private sector to develop a reliable rapid response test for cruising. That is the problem that needs solving.
With reliable rapid response testing, a cruise ship could be the safest place on earth - quarantined with people who don’t have the virus, and away from those at your local grocery store who refuse to wear a mask. I live outside of Washington DC, and was downtown over the weekend. People were six-deep at a local bar, with perhaps a total of three or four patrons wearing a mask. If someone had the virus there, many likely went home with it.
Rather than target an industry that has been idle for months, the CDC should review its guidance protocols to immediately focus on activities that are actually taking place and are actually spreading the virus. Maybe then the infection and death rate would both mercifully go down.
Whatever it decides, please stop demonizing the cruise industry and instead provide us with the guidance we need in order to safely return to the seas.
President & CEO
American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA)
Rebranded in 2018 as the American Society of Travel Advisors, ASTA is the leading global advocate for travel advisors, the travel industry and the traveling public. Its members represent 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States through the travel agency distribution channel. Together with hundreds of internationally-based members, ASTA’s history of industry advocacy traces back to its founding in 1931 when it launched with the mission to facilitate the business of selling travel through effective representation, shared knowledge and the enhancement of professionalism. For more information about the Society, visit ASTA.org. Consumers can connect with an ASTA travel advisor at TravelSense.org.