Citing the outbreak of COVID-19 on the first Caribbean cruise and the overall resurgence of the virus, two members of the U.S. Congress are calling on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC to reinstate its no-sail order for cruise ships. The letter to the CDC came as thousands of people have volunteered to become testers for the reinstatement of cruises in US waters.
Referencing the SeaDream 1, which suspending its Caribbean cruise and returned to Barbados last week, Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA) and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said, “In light of these disturbing reports, we feel strongly that you should reverse course on the recent decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to take a phased approach to restarting cruise line operations in the United States,” in the letter to CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. “Unfortunately, this troubling development is not surprising and reaffirms the need to exercise extreme caution before sending passengers and crew back out to sea on cruises.”
The letter emphasized that the risks are especially high given current skyrocketing COVID-19 cases, and expressed concern that additional cases might be identified among the cruise ship’s passengers and crew.
The exact number of cases related to the cruise remains unclear. Over the weekend, the authorities in Barbados permitted the majority of the passengers, all of whom had tested negative for the virus on several occasions, to disembark and fly home as scheduled. Newspapers in Barbados reported that seven passengers and one crew member, however, had been moved from the cruise ship to an isolation facility on the island. Reports suggest that five of the individuals were one family unit traveling together on the cruise and other a couple traveling on the cruise.
The passengers, who were mostly from the US and Europe, reportedly were given instructions on proper health protocols before departing the ship. It was also recommended that they continue to self-isolate, although the belief is that the exposure to the virus was likely very limited.
The cruise industry, however, despite the latest development is moving ahead with its efforts to meet the guidelines established by the CDC as the steps to restart cruises. Speaking to the investment community last week, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings’ CEO Frank Del Rio said the company could be prepared to run the mock cruises prescribed by the CDC as early as January 2020 and Royal Caribbean International also launched a call for volunteers to possibly sail on its mock cruises. Over the weekend, President Michael Bayley announced on social media that 100,000 people had volunteered for the trial trips required by the CDC.
Quietly, however, the cruise lines have been deleting cruises lasting longer than a week from their websites. The CDC in its new order limited the authorization to cruises of seven days or less.
Congresswoman Matsui and Senator Blumenthal, who sent the letter to the CDC are also lead sponsors of the Cruise Passenger Protection Act. The bill which was presented in Congress would build on the 2010 Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA), including provisions regarding the medical standards aboard cruise ships, including requiring the presence of a physician to treat passengers in the event of an emergency and the appropriate number of qualified medical staff to treat the number of passengers on board.